CORINTH — A big game between two teams tied for second place in the District 5-4A standings was decided in the top of the fifth inning — in more ways than one.
Aaron Studdard’s go-ahead two-run single gave Guyer a lead it wouldn’t relinquish and Lake Dallas’ best player was ejected from the game after the hit before the Wildcats later pulled away for a 7-2 win to take sole possession of second place, one game back of Wichita Falls with three games remaining.
Connor Herriage started a two-out rally in the fifth with a triple down the left-field line before Lake Dallas head coach John Tompkins opted to intentionally walk slugger James Farris and pitch around cleanup hitter Daulton Horton to load the bases for Studdard. On a 3-1 pitch, Studdard hit a two-run single to left field to break a 2-2 tie. Herriage finished the night 3-for-4 with two RBIs and was a home run shy of the cycle.
“We’re not gonna pitch to their two best hitters,” Tompkins said. “We’re playing the odds. We made a mistake, and he hit it.”
After the play, the home-plate umpire ejected Lake Dallas closer Jackson Owens, who had relieved starter Grant Landry to face Studdard. The umpire told coaches Owens said something to him about his balls and strikes.
“Jackson is such a competitive kid and a good baseball player,” Guyer head coach Johnny Kinzy said. “When a player like that is suddenly out of the lineup, it definitely takes the air out of their sails and takes some momentum away.”
Owens was 1-for-2 before leaving the game, and in the two at-bats after his ejection — his spot came up in the order twice with a runner in scoring position — and both at-bats ended in strikeouts.
Guyer pitcher Douglas Palmer kept the Falcons (14-13, 7-4 district) off-balance for much of the night, especially after he was able to add a pitch to his arsenal after struggling early on with his slider.
In his first district start of the season, the lanky righty went 6 1/3 innings, struck out six and struggled just once, in a two-run fourth inning when the Falcons plated runs on RBI singles from Tristan Tom and Daniel Rivera.
“He was able to get ahead early in the count,” Kinzy said. “He had a tough time getting his slider over early in the game, but once he got that working for a strike it allowed us to mix it up that much more and make him that much better.”
Tompkins said his team didn’t follow the scouting report he had set for Palmer, who began the continuation of a postponed game against Denton last week, but was making his first official start in district play.
“We took fastball after fastball,” Tompkins said. “I told them the key to winning was to be aggressive with the fastball early in the count, and we didn’t do it. We got in pitchers’ counts. We just weren’t very good offensively.”
With three games remaining, Guyer (13-10, 8-3) will have a shot to draw even for the top spot in the district when it faces Wichita Falls next Tuesday at home after a home game against Wichita Falls Rider on Friday.
Guyer 7, Lake Dallas 2
WP — Douglas Palmer. LP — Grant Landry. 2B — G: Daulton Horton, Connor Herriage, Luke Cullum, Riley Wilhoit, Brandon Hendricks. 3B — G: Connor Herriage. Records — Guyer 13-10, 8-3; Lake Dallas 14-13, 7-4.