BY RYAN COBB Sports writer
IT’S RIGHT THERE — South Lewis pitcher Josh Stoffle points to the ball as shortstop Jason Martin fields a pop fly during Tuesday’s Class C state regional contest at DeLutis Field. The Falcons were handed a season-ending 8-2 defeat. (Sentinel photo by Makenzi Enos)
TRIPPED UP — Lansing first baseman Benji Parkes loses his footing while trying to tag out South Lewis baserunner Lucas Kelly as he crosses first base during Tuesday’s Class C state regional game at DeLutis Field. Lansing went on to advance to the state semifinals with an 8-2 victory. (Sentinel photo by Makenzi Enos)
Not being able to get the key big hits when it counted the most did in the South Lewis baseball team during the Class C state regional on Tuesday as the Falcons lost to undefeated Section IV champion Lansing, 8-2, at DeLutis Field.
After falling behind early by four runs, the Falcons had opportunities to get back in the thick of things, and at one point tie the game up, but left runners in scoring position nearly every time they had a shot.
Josh Stoffle didn’t have his best stuff on the hill for the Falcons either, as he gave up seven runs on 10 hits while striking out three and walking four in 5 2-3 innings in the losing effort.
South Lewis coach Chad Brown said the Beavers, who improved to 24-0 on the season, simply outplayed his squad.
"They put the ball in play, they got guys on and they moved guys around," he said. "We weren’t able to be aggressive on the base pads and that’s what we like to do. We just didn’t get ourselves in a situation where we could do that today. When that happens, we struggle scoring runs and against this team that’s the ultimatum of what happened today."
Beavers starter Sean Streb (10-0) picked up the win after giving up four hits and striking out 10 in the complete game effort.
Despite the solid effort, the Falcons got to Streb on three occasions but were only able to capitalize on just one shot in the fourth inning when Dominick Ventura hit a bases loaded two-run single with two outs to cut the Beavers’ lead to 4-2. That would be all the Falcons get in the frame as Cody Capron flew out to centerfield with runners on second and third base. Streb also held out the home team when they got guys on third and second in the second inning with no outs, and another time with the bases loaded in the seventh when South Lewis tried to squeeze out a late rally even though they were down, 8-2.
"It was a great pitching performance from Sean Streb," said Lansing coach Stuart Dean. "He really grinded out those last several innings. I think the only mistake he had all day was walking those two kids in the inning and only gave up a couple of hits. Other than that I felt like he was in charge."
Heading into the contest, Streb had an earned run average of 0.30 in his last two appearances.
Benji Parkes recorded two hits and tallied three RBIs in the contest, but he said no RBI was bigger than the one in the first inning when he connected with a one-run single up the middle of the diamond to put Lansing up 1-0.
"The first RBI was the most important," Parkes said. "To get a run up on the board the first inning is huge. It’s been huge for us all season and it’s a big part of why we have been winning games."
Parkes also hit a ground out to the second baseman Garrett Kubinski to bring Ellington Hopkins home from third to make it 2-0 and then added a RBI single in the sixth to make it 6-2. Hopkins also recorded three hits and had an RBI from the top of the Beavers’ batting order.
The Beavers had no bigger inning than in the sixth when they scored two of their four runs in the frame on a South Lewis throwing error by Stoffle on a pickoff attempt at third base.
"In a game like this I feel it’s really important to get on top and put pressure on your opponent from a hitting standpoint," said Dean. "The inning after they got their two (runs) I felt we did a great job of responding and getting four (runs) later. That was really big for us. We’ve done that all year, so I’m not surprised by it, but I’m certainly pleased with it."
Ventura led the Falcons with two hits to go along with his two RBIs, while Capron and Hunter Chrusicki each had a single. Stoffle and Hunter Jones scored the two South Lewis runs.
The Falcons wrapped up their season by picking up the program’s fourth Section III title in the school’s history and finishing with an impressive 20-3 record.
"It was an excellent year for us," said Brown, who claimed the sectional title in only his second year as South Lewis’ coach. "The kids came and did what we’re all about. They got guys on and moved them around the best they could, and fielded the ball when they needed to. I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids, first of all, and second I couldn’t have asked for a better season. They exceeded far more than what I had expected of them."