The CAAC Gold baseball league title race tightened up considerably when league-leading Eaton Rapids split a doubleheader with Jackson Lumen Christi on Thursday.
The Greyhounds dropped the first game 6-2 to pick up their second league loss, but rallied in a big way in the nightcap, salvaging the split with a 10-0 win shortened to six innings by mercy rule.
Eaton Rapids (16-2 overall, 8-2 CAAC Gold) has been the surprise of the area this year, starting the season with 11 straight wins that included a sweep of CAAC Gold rival Charlotte, but dropped into a first-place tie with the Orioles with their loss in the first game.
Nathan Laginess had a 2-run triple in the third inning for the Greyhounds in game one, which went to the seventh inning tied 2-2, but the Titans scored four runs in the top of the seventh to take the 6-2 victory.
“That was just a good baseball game,” Eaton Rapids coach Rick Acker said.
“They got some key hits in the late innings. We had some people on the basepaths early. We just couldn’t scratch out any runs.”
It was a different story in the second game, in which Eaton Rapids scored three runs in the first without the benefit of a hit, and scored in each of the six innings played.
Vann Acker picked up the win on the mound for the Greyhounds, and helped his own cause by scoring two runs and driving in another. Travis Jecks drove in two runs with a double in the fourth and Robert Miller ended the game by driving home Laginess with the 10th run with one out in the sixth.
“We went through a couple of different pitchers and struggled throwing strikes, and that’s what happens,” Titans coach Phil Clifford said.
“Eaton Rapids has a nice team. It was nice to get a split, but we were kind of disappointed in that second game.”
Before the season, Lumen Christi (11-9, 2-3) was the coaches’ pick to win the league, but fell a game behind Eaton Rapids and Charlotte with the loss.
First-year coach Acker said that team chemistry was a key to his team winning 11 games.
“I think we came together a little quicker than even I had hoped, getting the camaraderie together and playing as a team,” he said.
“That was one of my biggest goals, and it seemed to happen really quick. Quite honestly, that’s one of the keys to our success.
“I knew we had a good group of kids. You don’t really know what you have until you take the field, but it really started to take shape early, so from a pretty early point we were targeting a league title.”