The Cougar baseball team picked up an improbable 12th District win on Monday as they defeated the visiting Butler County Bears 2-0 at Don Lee Field.
It was improbable because Butler County pitcher Blake Graham came up with a lights-out performance that should have given him a win. The junior right-hander pitched six innings and allowed just one hit, a fourth-inning single to Hunter Shiarella, and struck out nine Cougars.
But Graham was hurt by a second-inning error that plated the Cougars’ first run, then he hurt himself with a fifth-inning wild pitch that accounted for their second run.
It should have been a banner day for Graham as earlier he had set Butler County batting records. After his single leading off the first inning, it was announced that Graham had become the school’s all-time hit leader and at the same time had set a single-season record for hits. He later added another single in the fifth inning.
Graham’s tough luck turned out to be good luck for Cougar senior Gage Akridge, who picked up the win for the Cougars. Akridge allowed no runs on four hits. The Cougar lefty walked no one and struck out five.
After Graham singled leading off, right-fielder Ty Burden laid down a bunt trying to sacrifice Graham to second. But when Akridge and catcher Parker Cain collided in front of the plate, everyone was safe.
Second-baseman Eddie Phelps then grounded into a 6-4-3 double play as Graham moved to third. Akridge got out of the jam when he got clean-up hitter Trevor Parker to pop out to Chandler England in centerfield.
The Cougars took a 1-0 lead with an unearned run in the bottom of the second inning. Cain walked leading off and was replaced on the bases by senior Zac Johnson. Shiarella followed by laying down a perfect sacrifice bunt, moving Johnson to second.
But Johnson never stopped running and headed to third. An accurate throw by first-baseman Skyler Moore would have gotten Johnson by at least 15 feet, but his throw was high and went down the left-field line, allowing Johnson to come home with the only run the Cougars would need.
Grayson County would later put runners at second and third, but Graham struck out England to end the inning.
The Bears put runners in scoring position in the third, fourth and fifth innings, but Akridge was able to wriggle out of trouble each time. In the third, Lake Cameron walked leading off and moved to second on a wild pitch. Akridge struck out Gage Ward, got Graham on a ground out, then got Burden to line out to England to end that threat.
In the fourth, a Cougar error and a Moore single put runners at first and second with two outs, but Akridge got Warren Cameron on a come-backer. In the fifth, Graham singled and stole second base with two outs, but Akridge induced Burden to pop up to end that inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, England walked with one out and stole second base. Hunter Young grounded back to Graham for the second out, but England was able to advance to third base. With Landon Nichols at the plate, Graham uncorked a wild pitch to the backstop. England raced home and was just able to elude Graham’s tag to plate the Cougars’ second run.
Akridge then took care of business, retiring the last seven batters he faced to close out the Cougar win.
Grayson County improved to 8-16 on the season with the win, while the Bears dropped to 12-19. Both teams have 3-2 district records meaning that the game scheduled for Tuesday at Butler County would decide the number-one seed for the 12th District Tournamant, which will be held at Butler County in two weeks.
Reach Don Brown at 259-9622, ext. 2016.