Through the first four innings in Wednesday night's baseball matchup between South Forsyth and Lambert, War Eagles pitcher Landon Sims was doing everything he could from the mound.
The highly-touted draft prospect had done his part throwing the ball, starting a must-win game against Lambert by allowing no hits in that span, but the bats behind him just weren’t connecting. Right after they finally did, the Longhorns finally tagged Sims for two runs to tie the game.
Sims himself hasn’t been immune to the War Eagles' inconsistent hitting over the last few weeks. Heading into Wednesday, he was hitless in his last 12 at-bats, and after a groundout in the first, the streak was up to 13. So when Sims hit an RBI double to bring in Jake Witterman in the sixth, he clapped his hands and celebrated both the end of his dry spell and the lead he’d just given back to himself.
Sims ultimately added another RBI double in the top of the seventh to end his 2-for-3, two-RBI day at the plate. That, combined with his complete game, 10-strikeout effort on the mound helped end South’s six-game region losing skid, with the War Eagles taking a 5-2 victory over the Longhorns. With the victory, South stays alive in the playoff hunt by improving to 2-7 in Region 5-7A. Lambert fell to 3-6.
“It's really helpful that the whole team's (stayed) positive during region play,” Sims said. “We've dropped six straight games in region, and that's really tough to stay positive in. In baseball, you've got to keep a positive mindset, no matter what's going on.”
The first half of the game was an almost hitless pitcher’s duel between Sims and Lambert’s Reid Howard, but the War Eagles finally broke through in the fifth, with an error on a pickoff throw scoring Payton Presley from third, and a patient at-bat from Cole Kliphouse that resulted in an RBI single for a 2-0 lead.
“I think (Howard) had 13 pitches through the first two innings, which quite honestly wasn't a great job on our part trying to work the count a little bit,” South head coach Russ Bayer said. “We were fortunate to be able to get to him a little bit.”
Lambert was finally able to jump on Sims in the bottom half of the fifth, with Jonathan Hemings breaking up his no-hit bid with a bloop single to left. Two doubles from Parker Brosius and Will Hensley followed that, with the latter knock tying the game at 2-2. Sims, whose fastball and slider had been working very well up to that point, kept his cool.
“I like to keep really good composure when I'm on the mound,” Sims said. “I don't like to show any emotion. I think that's really important in trying to show the young guys that I'm not down. Being up when something like that happens is really important.”
After Sim’s first double gave the War Eagles the lead back, he scored from third on a wild pitch to make it 4-0 in the middle of the sixth. The Longhorns finished their night with four errors, which didn’t help them in a close matchup.
“I was happy with our kids and they way we competed,” Lambert head coach Rick Howard said. “We took our opportunities, and in the end, we made some mistakes, they capitalized on them and it cost us.”
South still has a long way to go before it can say it’s climbed out of its hole, but if they’re going to do that, Wednesday was a good start. The key now is to keep the goals small, beginning with the War Eagles’ Friday rematch with the Longhorns.
“We can't afford to look ahead too far with anything,” Bayer said. “Simply put, we've got to win the first inning on Friday and take it in stride from there.”