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Late heroics propel Chiefland baseball past Williston

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By Sean Arnold

Last Tuesday’s baseball tilt between Chiefland and Williston was a game of precious few offensive opportunities.

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The Indians entered the final inning of the pitching and defensive duel having scrounged up just one run and two hits, the most important being an RBI double by junior Josh Webber that scored sophomore Kelby Osteen in the fourth for CMHS’ only previous run.

Chiefland proved once again it was comfortable with late-game heroics, however, as senior Casey Lawson sliced a two-run double down the third-base line to lift the Indians to a 3-2 win.

CMHS juniors Zach Bloom and Seth Thomas notched back-to-back walks to set the stage, forcing the Red Devils to call in relief for sophomore Curtis Strange, who had previously retired seven straight Indian batters.

Lawson, who is committed to Eastern Kentucky University, reset himself after fouling off a pitch on a check swing, before reaching low to laser the game-winning shot against senior Britton Hall, driving in Bloom and pinch runner Lonnie Hinote on Chiefland’s third hit of the game.

Lawson made hard contact on his previous two at bats, but they went right to WMHS defenders.

“He had a real unusual delivery, and it sunk a lot,” Lawson said of the first pitch he saw from Hall. “At first it looked like a strike, and I tried check my swing and it hit the back of the barrel.

“I was really just looking for a fastball (the next pitch) that I could drive through the infield. We were going for it, I wasn’t just trying to move the runner.

“We’re really scrappy,” Lawson added. “We’ve got a bunch of young guys that are starting to come around.”

Sophomore starter Keegan McLelland tossed four innings for Chiefland, allowing five walks, three hits and two earned runs against five strikeouts. In three innings of relief, fellow sophomore Wyatt Hammond fanned two and yielded one walk and one hit.

Behind those pitching performances, the Chiefland defense didn’t commit an error.

“It was a good defensive game,” CMHS coach Kyle Parnell said. “We pitched out of some situations that we were in, and I thought Elijah had a great night behind the plate throwing out two or three runners.

“Keegan (McLelland) and Wyatt (Hammond) both did a great job pitching. Keegan wasn’t as sharp as he was in his first outing, but he was effective and kept it close. He ate up some innings and gave us a chance to be in that spot.”

Bloom boarded on all three of his at bats for Chiefland behind a pair of walks.

The Indians loaded the bases to no avail in the second.

The win, which moved Chiefland to 4-1 on the season, was the third walk-off victory for the young club.

WMHS senior ace Ricky Vanasco (0.47 ERA) registered nine strikeouts in four innings on the mound for WMHS while allowing one hit and one earned run. Vanasco, a Stetson commit, and fellow senior Britton Hall hall each chipped in an RBI hit. Sophomore Curtis Strange fanned one and yielded two walks and an earned run in relief.

“We knew, facing one of the top pitchers in the area (Vanasco), we were going to be limited in hits,” Parnell said. “Casey hit a few on the button before he got the big one there at the end.”

Chiefland meets Williston again on April 27 for the regular season finale.

The Indians dropped a district meeting 3-1 at Bell the ensuing Friday, pulling them even at 2-2 in 1A-7 play, and leaving them at 4-2 heading into spring break. They next play at Bronson on March 24.

“Hopefully, we can maintain what we’ve gained going into (the break), because it’s a pretty long layoff,” Parnell said.

The Red Devils bounced back from the loss with a 10-9 win over Bronson before notching an 11-1 triumph over Gainesville-Oak Hall to improve to 4-3 on the season. They next play at Trenton on Thursday, March 16, at 7 p.m., and take on Hilliard at home the ensuing night.

Williston is tied for first in District 1A-6 with a 2-1 mark.