Whether it’s confidence or toughness or a concoction with many ingredients, Airline baseball knows how to win close games.
The Vikings did it again Friday, scoring two seventh-inning runs on the road to top Byrd 6-4 after beating the Yellow Jackets 2-1 on Thursday.
Jacob James scored the go-ahead run on a Peyton Davis sacrifice fly, and Cameron Taylor added an insurance run when pitcher Gunnar Fullerton balked with the bases loaded.
“It’s just a mindset. We don’t care who is at the plate, we just have to get the job done,” said James, who collected two of the Vikings’ 10 hits. “In the tournaments, we’ve had a couple games like this where we’re on the opposite end, but those prepared us for these games.
“This team is really close, and we are a band of brothers.”
Pitcher Andrew Lowe worked around a hit batsman in the seventh inning as he logged three of his six strikeouts in the win.
Three of Byrd’s four runs were unearned as Lowe allowed six hits in his seven-inning complete game.
“It’s a mentality thing. You never want to back down or give up, always attack the strike zone and go after the batters,” Lowe said. “I give it all to God, and he got me through this game.
“As a team, we’re seeing more pitches, batters are starting to get hot swings, the pitchers are locating and the defense is dialed in. It’s only a matter of time … before we start beating people up.”
Airline (11-7, 2-0 District 1-5A) improved to 7-2 in games decided by three runs or less this season, but the Vikings had to absorb some blows to do it. The Vikings will attempt to sweep Byrd on Saturday at 2 p.m.
After the Vikings took a 2-0 lead after an Adam Armstrong RBI single and a Taylor sacrifice fly, Byrd struck with three third-inning runs to grab a 3-2 lead.
A Lowe error put Casey Broussard on, and Byrd then produced three straight infield singles (Chance Cole, Steele Netterville and Wyatt Broome). Broome’s single scored Broussard, and a Zack Flash RBI and an error plated two more Byrd runs.
Byrd starting pitcher Jonathan Fincher battled all night, but a wild pitch in the fifth inning scored James (tied score at 3-3), who hit a lead off double.
Tanner Daniel (2-for-3, two doubles as a No. 9 hitter) drove in Ryan Phillips (2-for-3) to give Airline a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning, but Byrd’s Fullerton (courtesy runner for Trent Touchet) scored on Airline’s third error to tie the score in the bottom of the frame.
“This team has answered the challenge because it’s been that kind of series,” said Airline coach Toby Todd. “I’ve been really proud of them because they compete.
“I’m extremely proud of Andrew and his complete game in 97 pitches – he’s becoming a man. We’ve tinkered with the lineups, and we still continue to do so, but we had some big swings from the lower part of the lineup to get us going early.”
Byrd (9-11, 0-2) entered the series with momentum, winning three of the last four including beating No. 5 Barbe.
Coach Greg Williams said his team is still finding their roles, but he’s confident the Yellow Jackets can be more consistent.
“We’ve just got to keep fighting,” Williams said. “A ball falls here or there, and it’s a different situation.
“Airline is good and well-coached, and those guys are clicking right now. They are getting the big hits with two outs and runners in scoring in position.”