Lanier baseball splits first-round series with Grady

ATLANTA — Lanier won its first-ever playoff game with masterful pitching from its ace and a few key hits.

But if the Longhorns would have had just one more big hit, they probably wouldn't be going back to Atlanta on Saturday.

Lanier split its first-round doubleheader with Grady in the Class AAAA state playoffs on Friday. The Longhorns won Game 1 4-1, but lost Game 2 3-1.

Game 3 is Saturday at 1 p.m. at Crim Open Campus High School.

"Playoffs aren't done and it's best of one now," said Lanier head coach Chad Longe.

Unfortunately for Longe, his ace Kameron Doster can't start again Saturday. But if he could, it's unlikely the Knights would fare any better.

The Longhorns (19-9, No. 3 seed from Region 8) had been swept out of the first round of the playoffs each of the last two years. Doster is one of 12 seniors who have been with the program from its inception four years ago. He made sure that losing streak wouldn't be something he would pass on to the next class.

"I'm just proud," Doster said about finally snapping the skid. "It's more for the school than anything else."

Doster went the distance, allowing one earned run and four hits. He fanned 11 and gave up only two fly ball outs.

"The monkey is finally off our back," said Longe. "It's a confidence boost for us that we made it to the playoffs and we aren't just here to be here. We are here to win. "

Doster (4-3) pitched with the lead most of the game. Fellow senior Matt Ramsay hit the first pitch of the second inning over the left-center field fence to give the Longhorns a 1-0 lead. It was Ramsay's third homer this season.

"That broke the ice a little bit," said Longe.

Lanier picked up another run in the third on a two-out double from Chandler Burrow.

It would stay 2-0 until the bottom of the sixth when Doster got himself in the only jam of the game. He gave up three singles, the last just a dribbler off the bat of Luke Leonard. But it dribbled far enough up the third baseline to allow Charles Bailey to score and cut the lead to one.

But that was it.

"He's got ice water in his veins like he always does," said Longe.

Lanier picked up two more insurance runs in the seventh, in part because of a defensive meltdown by the Knights' first baseman.

With two outs, he failed to touch first base while waiting on a throw from the second baseman that would have ended the inning. This would be very painful for Grady

One batter later, Burrow knocked in his second run of the game with another swinging bunt. T.J. Richardson's grounder to third would bring the fourth run when the first baseman missed the throw.

Lanier was happy to accept the help, but they really needed it in Game 2.

The Longhorns had three hits, but managed to leave 10 runners on base, including nine in scoring position.

"We were certainly looking for that fourth (hit) and we would have been alright," said Longe.

Lanier had runners on the second and third in the first inning. Couldn't score. They did the same thing in the second, but struck out twice to end the inning. Ditto in the third, but couldn't get the ball past the pitcher.

In the fourth, Lanier left a runner wasting away at second base.

But the sixth inning is where it really hurt.

Down 3-0, Trenton Little led off the inning with a single. He moved up to second when an easy double play was kicked around by Grady's shortstop.

After two fly outs to right, pinch hitter Tyler Tillman drew a walk to load bases.

Leadoff man Cameron Coursey hit a weak grounder to second, but the flip to second was dropped. The Longhorns had finally broke through -- with the help of two errors -- to make it 3-1.

But you can figure out the rest. The bases stayed loaded after Burrow popped up to third.

Lanier got one more runner on in the seventh, but the game ended on a 6-4-3 double play.

"We had runners on all day long," said Longe. "We just couldn't get the big hit we were looking for. It's frustrating for a coach, but I know as a high school player it's probably more frustrating for them."

Grady (15-8) starter Davis Schwartz allowed five walks, but still managed to pitch a complete game to get the win. Ramsay (5-4) also went seven innings in the loss. He allowed eight hits and struck out six.

Lanier's 1-2 hitters, Coursey and Burrow, combined to go 4-for-8 in Game 1, but went hitless in the nightcap.

T.J. Richardson, Ramsay, Little and Kristoff Rietig each had two hits in the doubleheader.

Little (5-2, 2.84 ERA, 25 K, 32 IP) will start the deciding game on Saturday. He was 7-0 last season.

The winner faces NW Whitfield or LaGrange in the Sweet 16 next week.