The Lambert baseball team had plenty of reasons to be intimidated on Tuesday night, and they were all Ethan Hankins fastballs.
The Longhorns posed little offensive threat to Forsyth Central for much of the teams’ Region 5-7A opener on Tuesday night, as the Bulldogs’ junior ace had the Lambert bats waving through heater after heater. Through five innings, the Vanderbilt commit had 11 strikeouts.
Griffin Jarrett was an outlier, though.
“I’ve seen faster,” he said.
The Longhorns’ senior first baseman certainly played like it, as he had the team’s only two hits off Hankins. In the first inning, he smacked a hanging breaking ball up the middle. And in the pivotal sixth frame, Jarrett blasted a low fastball off the right field fence, driving in the tying run and setting up an eventual 5-1 win in nine innings for Lambert.
“That’s the thing you’ve got to look at with a guy like (Hankins): He’s going to have his day,” Longhorns head coach Rick Howard said. “You’ve just got to seize opportunities when you get them, and we were fortunate today that we were able to do that.”
Central took the first lead of the game when leadoff hitter Luke Sutko sent a fly ball to right field, where gusting winds helped it over the fence for a leadoff home run.
That was scarcely a hindrance for Lambert starter Zach Keenan, though. The senior College of Charleston signee located his fastball and breaking balls well and limited hard contact from the Bulldogs, with the Longhorns playing strong defense behind him. Sutko’s home run wound up being Central’s only extra-base hit of the game.
That offense was limited was due in part to the frigid conditions at Central’s field, with below-40-degree temperatures sharpened by whipping wind. Jarrett said it was one of the coldest games he’d ever played in.
“I saw snow,” he said.
But when the Longhorns (6-7, 1-0 Region 5-7A) got a small opening, they mustered the energy to make something out of it. Bobby Gabriel opened the sixth inning with a dribbler down the third base line, and while Hankins reached it and fired a missile over to first base in time, the throw was high and went off first baseman Daniel Henderson’s glove.
Gabriel moved up to second on a passed ball, went to third on a bunt and scored on Jarrett’s double. After going scoreless in the seventh and eighth inning, Lambert took a 3-1 lead in the ninth on Jack Fleming’s bases-loaded double and added two more runs on a wild pitch and an RBI groundout.
Payton MacPherson retired the Bulldogs (7-6, 0-1) in order in the ninth inning.
“This was something that we’ve been working on in the first 12 games: keeping our composure and just fighting,” Howard said. “… And good things will happen.”