By Bill Cross
For The Herald Bulletin
---- — FRANKTON — School district rivals squared off Friday night as the Frankton Eagles played host to the Lapel Bulldogs on the baseball diamond.
Lapel was playing their fifth game in five nights (including four on the road) but brushed off the fatigue and scored an impressive 11-0 six inning win over the host Eagles.
“Fifth night in a row and we had three hour-long road trips the last three nights,” said Lapel coach Brad Lantz of trips to Beech Grove, Cardinal Ritter and Tri. “We talked about bringing a lot of energy whether on the field or in the dugout.”
The Bulldogs had good energy at the plate and on the mound as last-minute starter Kyle Hawkins pitched a complete game with seven strikeouts and no walks. “Our original starter came up and said he couldn’t go tonight, his arm was still a bit tender,” Lantz said. “It was next man up and tonight it was Kyle.”
Hawkins, who had five innings of relief in the Lapel’s first nine games, made his first start of the year and pitched a gem. The Eagles had five hits on the night but Hawkins got out of his only real jam with great defense in the third inning.
Lapel struck for four runs in the top of the third after Jaxon Shirley led off with a double and scored on Dane Mason’s single. Brady Cherry, Luker and Mason all crossed the plate in the inning for Lapel.
Frankton’s Matt Kunce tripled to start the bottom of the third and it looked like it might ignite a rally for the Eagles. The next batter, Jon Betz, hit a grounder to Mason at third. Mason took a peek at the plate and fired to catcher Cade Luker, who put the tag on the sliding Kunce for a big out.
“That was huge,” said Lantz. “Dane made a great play on the backhand. That could have started a big inning.” Hawkins gave up a two-out single in the third but struck out Bryce Mallernee to end the inning.
Lapel put two more runs across in the fourth when the ninth hitter in the order Cole O’Connor was hit by a pitch and scored on a double by Nolan Clark. Clark came around to score on a Shirley double to give Lapel a 6-0 lead.
Hawkins retired the Eagles in order in the fourth and fifth innings, setting up Lapel’s big sixth.
The Bulldogs sent all nine batters to the plate and scored five runs to extend the lead to 11-0. Hawkins was sharp in the bottom of the inning, striking out the first two batters he faced and got Mallernee to ground out to third to end the game.
“He was able to throw his fastball and his curveball about anywhere he wanted to tonight,” said Lantz of Hawkins. “The confidence was there.”
While Lapel had confidence, Frankton coach Brad Douglas was philosophical with his Eagles. “I told the boys it’s Murphy’s Law right now,” Douglas said. “If anything can go wrong, it will. It’s a little bit of everything right now. It’s me, it’s the newness, it’s pressing, it’s a lack of confidence at the plate.” Douglas felt the pitchers used (Mallernee started before being relieved by Austin Webb in the fourth with no outs) had a decent outings, it was just the wrong things happening at the wrong time.
“I thought our pitching was okay, we missed a couple of spots but we had inopportune walk and an inopportune play in the field.” The Eagles stranded three runners and had a runner doubled up at second on a foul out that kept the runs off of the board. After the game, one of the Eagles found what hopefully will be a good luck charm. “One of our guys found a four leaf clover as we were talking (in the outfield),” Douglas said. “We’re going to keep grinding, that’s all we can do.”
Frankton (2-6) travels to Eastbrook on Tuesday for a Central Indiana Conference game while Lapel (6-4) travels to Daleville on Monday.