Sliding to victory

Published 10:32 pm Friday, April 15, 2011

Lakeland’s Nate Meeks dives into second base on a stolen base during Friday evening’s game at Deep Creek. The Cavaliers (3-9) scored three runs in the sixth inning to turn a deficit, and overcome their starting pitcher being ejected, for a 5-3 victory.

Cavaliers overcome deficit to snatch a 5-3 win

CHESAPEAKE — Lakeland’s baseball squad overcame an ejection, an injury and a 3-2 Deep Creek lead to earn a 5-3 win over the Hornets Friday evening.

The Cavaliers (3-9, 3-8) made it back-to-back dramatic victories as against non-district foe Denbigh on Wednesday, the Cavs scored four runs in the seventh to keep the game alive and one in the eighth to win 7-6.

Lakeland senior Lance Smith gets an out at second base as a Deep Creek runner slides into him during Friday’s Southeastern District game in Chesapeake.

The Cavs didn’t face a big deficit at any point Friday but had to keep going despite losing starting pitcher and third-place hitter David Waterfield to ejection in the fifth inning and having shortstop/leadoff hitter Lance Smith leave the game due to injury for three innings before returning to the action for the last two innings while practically playing on one leg.

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After Waterfield held the Hornets for the first two innings, the Cavs took struck first in the third.

Smith and Randall Jones singled to set the table for Waterfield, who belted a long drive over the leftfielder’s head for a two-run double.

The Hornets answered with two runs in the home half of the third. During the DC third, Smith fielded a chopper toward second and stepped on the bag for an out while setting to throw to first. The Hornet runner going into second slid straight into Smith’s planted left leg, causing a clearly painful injury. Smith couldn’t put any weight on his leg as he was helped off the field.

In Lakeland’s fifth, with the Cavs trailing 3-2, Waterfield singled with one out and stole his way around to third as Tyler Strange walked.

The Cavs tried a double steal. The return throw from the Hornet shortstop beat Waterfield to the plate but was high. Waterfield tried sliding around the catcher and dragging his hand to get the plate. The umpire said he missed the plate and the Hornet catcher tagged him out a couple strides behind the plate.

Waterfield argued the call, pointing to a clean spot on the plate, saying his tag caused the mark on the otherwise dirty plate, and was ejected.

Jones took over on the mound. Combined with Smith’s injury, the Cavs had switched players around at all four infield spots, catcher, pitcher and right fielder in a two-inning span.

The Cavaliers finished the Hornet fifth with a 5-4-3 double play, Nate Meeks to Daniel Fenton to Zach Meeks, and rallied in the next half-inning.

Lakeland took full advantage of two Hornet errors plus a misplayed fly into short leftfield to plate three runs.

Daniel House lined an RBI single into right-center to make it 3-3.

Smith came up, returning to his leadoff spot in the order, and reached base via error on a fly to right. Jones singled to score House and make it 5-3 Cavs.

“I put Lance back in because he asked to go back in,” said Lakeland head coach Mark Pollick.

“I commend him for his leadership, for doing that for the team. A senior who does that for the team, that’s just good stuff,” Pollick said.

Smith could only hobble around the bases. Once he reentered, Lakeland had no more subs, so Smith had to stay in the game and play first base.

Now pitching with the lead, Jones kept the Hornets quiet the rest of the way. He faced 10 hitters to get his nine outs while striking out three.

“He kept the batters off balance. Randall and (catcher) Tyler Strange worked really well mixing up their pitches,” Pollick said.

“It comes down to teamwork. I think the guys now are playing as a team. That’s the key to our success tonight and versus Denbigh,” he said.