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BREAKING NEWS: In like a Lion...Lewisville advances to state title series

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By Travis Jenkins

In the late innings of Wednesday’s upperstate title baseball game, Lewisville pitching coach Wally Weir had some instructions for hurler Andrew Culp.

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“Seniors finish the deal,” he said.

Culp not only finished the deal, he sealed it.

For the second time in three years, Lewisville will play for the Class A state title, advancing there with an 8-3 victory over defending state champion McBee.

Wednesday’s game was the fourth match-up of the two teams this season, with two of the previous three decided by a single run (including a winner’s bracket game earlier this week). The visitors made it clear early on that they weren’t yielding their title without a fight. First baseman Alex Miller stroked a one-out single in the first, Charles Herrington drew a two-out walk and they both moved up on a wild pitch. Culp, though, calmly fanned the next batter to get out of the inning.

An error and a Shane Hammonds single put two runners on for McBee in the second and the runners got into scoring position, but again, Culp pitched out of trouble, getting a ground-out to second baseman Jack Jordan to end the threat.

Lewisville took a lead it would never relinquish in the home half of the second and did all of its damage with two outs. Russell Noland got aboard with a solid single and Jordan followed him with another. That brought up Quentin Sanders, who delivered a single that brought Noland home and got Jordan all the way to third. Sanders promptly swiped second and Chase Yoder gave the Lions their fourth-straight one-bagger, plating two runs and giving Lewisville a 3-0 lead.

The Panthers were able to respond in the third. Miller was hit by a pitch and Clark Kirkley singled (getting Miller to third). Herrington got Miller in with an RBI groundout to make it a 3-1 ball game. That’s as close as McBee would get.

In the home half of the third, the Lions exploded. Culp led off the inning by reaching on an error. Alex Reed singled and the McBee outfield misplayed the ball, sending Culp to third. Drew Colvin was then hit by a pitch to load the bases for Braxton Elms. Elms, a freshman, drove in one with a single, then Noland drove in two more with base hit. Jordan came to the plate intending to bunt the runners over, but his dribbler was misplayed, plating another run and sending him safely to first. After a wild pitch gave the Lions their fifth run of the inning, McBee made a pitching change, pulling ace Clark Kirkley and bringing in Kyle Hawkins. He hit one batter, but managed to put out the fire. Still, Lewisville had built its lead to 8-1.

McBee got two on with nobody out in the fifth, but stranded the runners (giving them eight left on base to that point). The Panthers did draw a bit closer in the sixth, with Horton and Josh Tamburrino hitting back-to-back singles to lead off the frame, and both scoring on sacrifice groundouts. In the seventh, though, Culp got a pair of groundouts, then struck out the final batter to end things, touching off a celebratory dog pile.

Culp said he went into the game knowing what his role was. Though he would be considered a staff ace on many teams, he is the third starter for Lewisville with all-state players Drew Colvin and Trey Keels on hand. Had Lewisville lost, the team would have immediately played McBee again, with the winner going to state. Doing so would’ve meant Colvin would had to have pitched (with Keels having gone Monday) and wouldn’t have been available for game one of the state title series. Culp was going to finish what he started.

“It’s one thing to finish, but it’s another to finish this game,” he said. “We want our one and two ready to pitch for state. We had to save those arms.”

Culp did exactly the same thing last season, winning an elimination game by shutting out Dixie, to have Colvin and Keels available for the upperstate finals at McBee. Weir said that was important, but disagreed with Culp’s assessment slightly.

“We have a one-A and one-B, and a great number two. Andrew is one of those kids who works very hard. He’s not a power guy, but he throws strikes,” Weir said.

Weir said he had Rhett Cox ready to go in to pitch in the seventh if need be, but had a feeling that wouldn’t be necessary.

Culp said he wasn’t shaken by all the McBee base runners early on.

“In that situation, you’ve got to focus on making your pitches and trust your stuff,” he said.

Making that easy, he said, was his defense, which made a number of sparkling plays behind him, and the always-reliable Alex Reed behind the plate.

Billy Keels, Lewisville head coach, said seniors like Culp, Reed, Keels and others stepped up, but he also praised freshmen like Elms and Noland (who both went 2-for-3 at the plate) who came up with big base hits to break the game open.

Lewisville, now 23-5, advances to the Class A title game and will play host in game one to Lake View on Saturday at 6 p.m., weather permitting.