The first showdown between the two baseball powerhouses in Region 6-AAAAAA never sparked any compelling drama.
Johns Creek right-hander Matthew Gorst helped his team make a strong case that no matter what the rankings say, the No. 5 ranked Gladiators are the team to beat in the region, and No. 1 ranked Lambert provided plenty of help along the way.
The Longhorns committed five errors and recorded just three hits off Gorst, a Georgia Tech signee who guided Johns Creek to an 8-2 victory on Monday at Lambert.
"Gorst had a really good game," Johns Creek head coach Billy Nicholson said.
"He had all three of his pitches working really good tonight. We capitalized on some of their errors and put the ball in play. We stroked the ball pretty good today and that’s what you’ve got to do in this region."
The Gladiators (13-4, 6-0 region) ended Lambert’s seven game winning streak and seized sole possession of first place atop the region by dealing the Longhorns (13-3, 5-1) their first region loss. Johns Creek has won eight of its last nine games.
The Gladiators jumped out to an early lead and chased Lambert starting pitcher Joe Vonderschmidt after the first inning.
Skye Overton started the game with a leadoff double and moved to third on a wild pitch. Gorst drew a walk before Brandon Gold hit an RBI single to bring home Overton. Michael Salomon hit a grounder to the shortstop, but Trey Logan wasn’t able to field the ball and allowed courtesy runner Beck Heigle to cross the plate for a 2-0 lead. Vonderschmidt finally worked out of the jam with an inning-ending double play.
Gold led off the third inning with a walk before cleanup hitter Justin Friend (2-for-2, 1B, HR, 3 RBI) smashed a home run to left field.
Johns Creek kept the momentum alive and tacked on four more runs in the next inning.
Friend singled to center to score Heigle from second and put runners on the corners for Justin Mihalik. The five-hole hitter doubled to deep left field to bring home Gold and put courtesy runner Duncan Anderson on third. Lambert relief pitcher Harrison Lee tried to catch Anderson straying too far from the bag, but his throw was off target and allowed Anderson run home. The throw home to get Anderson went well past the catcher, so Mihalik took third and crossed the plate on a wild pitch to make the score 8-0.
"Anytime you make [five] errors on a good ball club, you can expect it to be tough," Lambert head coach Jamie Corr said.
"… There were a couple of big opportunities to get out of jams tonight and our pitchers did a good job of getting the right ball put in play, and unfortunately, we just didn’t make the plays tonight behind him."
Lambert rallied in the bottom half of the frame to get two runs back. Eric Furphy singled to right off Gorst (5 IP, 2 R, 3 H, 6 K, 3 BB, 1 HBP) for the Longhorns’ first hit of the game. Tucker Maxwell then singled before both runners advanced a base on a wild pitch. Jake Chickowski put Lambert on the board with a two-run double to right field, but Gorst stopped the drive with a strikeout to end the inning
"These kids are resilient," Corr said. "I thought we did a good job of coming through with some clutch hits [in the fourth inning] and putting some runs across against a very good pitcher, so that’s definitely something to build on."