By Keith Agran
For the Forsyth County News
Lights, walks, errors. All Monday's game between Lambert and Harrison needed to complete the picture was some fireworks.
Well, we got those in Suwanee with a stirring seventh-inning by the visiting Hoyas, as they put a five-spot on the board in that stanza and turned an 8-5 deficit into a rousing 10-8 win.
The big blow came off the bat of Harrison DH Preston Booth, as he catapulted a Ryan Cameron pitch over the right-field fence for a grand slam, which could have been avoided had it not been for the evening's plague that was base-on-balls as well as two Longhorn errors in the inning.
Brady Owens pitched the last three innings for the fourth-ranked Hoyas [6-1] to secure the win in relief of starter Jake Walling and Jeremy Kahle.
Both teams, but early on in particular the visitors, seemed to struggle with some combination of the field lights, the daylight fading into evening, and perhaps as well the lights coming from a lacrosse game happening in the football stadium that runs behind the visitor's dugout along the left-field side.
"Actually it doesn't happen here a lot," Lambert coach Rick Howard said of the lights. "Usually, it's the sun as it's setting down that's really tough, and I don't know if it was from the lights with the lacrosse, but I was watching their kids and they're fundamentally sound. It's just mistake[s] that happened and it kind of spread a little."
Two first-inning errors by the Longhorns having nothing to do with the lights helped the Hoyas out to a 2-0 lead, as a pair of singles following the mishaps gave them the early lead.
No. 3 Lambert [5-3] cut into that lead with a long Colin Linder solo shot in the second, making it 2-1, then got five more in the third, starting with a Parker Brosius triple that scored Jack Schaeffer.
Schaeffer reached after Harrison right fielder Jeff Fleming lost the ball in the lights, followed by Brosius' three-bagger that should have been another flyout had Fleming and center fielder Garrett Pate again not lost the ball in the lights.
Lambert left fielder Bradley Gabriel then converted a tough pitch on a suicide squeeze that brought in Brosius from third, and Gabriel then went all the way around to third base when Hoya catcher Alex Whiteside fired the throw to first over the head of first baseman Gavin Gnagey, and just like that, it was 3-2 Horns with a man on third and no one out.
Justin Haskins [3-for-4, 3 RBI, 1 run] singled next to left scoring Gabriel for a 4-2 lead, then a groundout and yet another Hoyas error plated two more in the inning for a 6-2 Lambert lead.
Haskins had another RBI single in the fourth for a 7-2 lead, Lambert then lifted starter Ashton Smith [4 2/3 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 5 SO] when he issued a pair of free passes in the fifth. Horns reliever Tyler Boutwell then walked his first batter to load the bases, and Booth [2-for-4, 1 HR, 7 RBIs, 2 runs] made the home team pay for those walks with a line-drive double down the left-field line to clear the bases and quickly cut it to 7-5.
Another Haskins RBI hit in the sixth gave Lambert what seemed like a cozy three-run lead, but two more crippling walks and those two critical errors reared their ugly head on the Horns side in the seventh before Booth's HR heroics and an insurance run on a sac fly from Gnagey, which filled out the final score.
"We have a tendency to get very comfortable," Howard said of his veteran-laden club that is receiving a lot of attention after last year's Elite Eight run. "And that's exactly what happened today. We've got a choice here, we can learn from it. We had a great weekend, played really well going 3-0, but you've got to keep coming out and defending it. You've got to do it the whole time. A lot of credit goes to their kids. They played hard, they didn't quit, and when they saw opportunities they took advantage of them."