Mitchell Gross isn’t a power hitter, and he’d be the first one to tell you that.
But this year, his offensive output has still found a way to blossom. He had a home run during the Bulldogs' spring break swing in South Carolina last week, and on Wednesday against Lambert, his hot streak continued, as he hit a three-run shot to left to cap off a 2-for-3, four-RBI day.
“It helps a lot when the guy that throws you BP is better than most pitchers in the county,” he said. “(Head coach Kevin McCollum) really prepares us. I kind of switched up my stance and approach. It's helped me a lot -- I kind of dropped my hands a little bit more, just trying to put the ball in play.”
That productive approach was evident not only for Gross, but all of the Bulldogs on Wednesday night, with Central totaling 15 hits against Lambert that were spread all around the field. The Bulldogs took advantage of two big frames to dispatch the Longhorns by a 12-2 margin in five innings. The win clinches a playoff spot for Central, which improved to 8-3 in Region 5-7A. The Longhorns dropped to 4-7 in the region with the loss.
“I think our approach at the plate has gotten better as the year has gone on,” McCollum said. “It's whether we're going to stick with the approach or try to do too much. Hopefully we'll continue with the approach at the plate we had tonight.”
Despite the Bulldogs’ eventual success, the Longhorns were the first to make noise on offense. Nate Gabbert led the game off with a single, and two batters later, Garrett Hollenbeck crushed a Jacob Ryan pitch to center field to give Lambert a 2-0 lead.
Those two hits accounted for roughly half of Lambert’s offensive output for the game. From that point, the Longhorns couldn’t solve Ryan, who finished his night with 13 strikeouts and five hits allowed.
Central essentially ended the game over the next two frames. The Bulldogs began the second with five straight hits from Ryan Gamble, Brady Hall, Greg Tasos, Ryan and Will Nelms, and after a hit batter, they added three more, bringing the score to 7-2 heading into the third.
“Our kids came in with energy,” Lambert coach Rick Howard said. “They came to play, and to their credit, (Central) sucked it out of us. Their kids did a great job and made huge adjustments from the first time we played them, and they were ready for today. That's on them.”
The damage just continued from there. After Nelms and AJ Fiechter singled in two more, Gross capped the inning off with his home run. The Bulldogs not only spread the ball around well, but were very productive with two strikes.
“That definitely is not only something that the pitcher doesn't like, but as a team, (it’s something) we should definitely strive for,” Gross said.
Fiechter and Nelms finished with two RBIs each, while Tasos, Ryan and Jonathan Bergmoser brought in one apiece.