BY BRIAN BESCH
Errors and missed opportunities plagued the Livingston Lion baseball team in a 7-1 loss to Willis Tuesday night at Texas Slam.
"We just didn't show up to play," Livingston Coach Mike Innerarity said. "We had a playoff caliber game and didn't make the most of it. You cannot win with eight walks, two wild pitches, and seven errors. You won't beat anybody. We showed up flat and it showed from the first inning and made it pretty much until the last. I don't know how many of those seven runs were unearned, but with seven errors, I'm guessing quite a bit of them. On the flip side, if you walk them and put them on for free a ton, it's kind of hard to win. We've got ourselves in a bind, so we'll see what we're made of."
Livingston pitcher Kurt Wilson ran into trouble in the first inning, as an error and two walks loaded the bags with two outs. A diving catch by Chris Boothe finished the frame without a score.
The sophomore hurler would get two quick outs in the third. A single from Wildkat Corbin Marett began a two-out rally. He advanced when Livingston catcher Dylan Matthews had problems holding on to the ball. A Grogan Matthews RBI single put the first score on the board.
After a base on balls, a throw from the Lion catcher to second landed in centerfield, allowing both runners to advance 90 feet. A wild pitch brought in a second run. Wilson collected his fifth strikeout in three innings to escape the frame.
The fourth and fifth inning would get no better, as three errors, two walks and a wild pitch helped turn three hits into a 6-0 hole. The last to score was a runner that reliever Kasey Glover inherited when Wilson left in the fifth.
Livingston showed signs of life in the sixth. After Willis pitcher Kyle Backhus recorded two outs in the inning, Davis Hendrix hit a pop fly to shallow right field.
A miscommunication between second baseman Nathan Perdue and right fielder Grogan Matthews resulted in the latter missing what should have been a routine third out.
Anthony Rodriguez made the opportunity count, slapping an RBI single to drive in Hendrix. Zane Lewis ended the inning on a hard hit ground ball to second. In the seventh, the Wildkats snagged the run they lost back, again starting with two outs. A Backhus infield single was compounded by a throw that ended up in the Willis dugout, allowing another free base.
Marett struck once more, clubbing an RBI triple to the centerfield wall.
The Lions went down in order to close the game and an impressive performance from Backhus.
The Willis pitcher threw all seven innings, allowing only one unearned run. He accumulated nine strikeouts and scattered four Lion hits.
Wilson punched out seven in five-plus innings of work and was charged with six of the seven Wildkat runs.
Willis left 12 men stranded on the base paths, but were able to take advantage of seven Lion errors. It took only seven hits to score the same amount of runs.
The bright spots for Livingston were Rodriguez, who had two hits and an RBI, Hendrix reached base twice, and Brannon Miller, who drew two walks and stole a base.
"The last several games whether it's a hit by pitch, a walk, or by error, he's (Miller) found a way to get on," Innerarity said. "Coming out of the nine hole, that's big. If we can just get the top of our lineup — who didn't do anything tonight — to produce, that helps. It's got to be a team effort and it wasn't tonight."
The playoff picture became a bit darker for the Lions, with a third-place tie of Livingston, Willis and Bryan. College Station is sitting atop District 18-5A, while Rudder — which beat Bryan 1-0 Tuesday — now holds second.
"Willis has the easier schedule, but if we end up with the same record at the end of the year, we would have to play them again," the coach explained. "This would have been a huge win for us tonight, but we didn't get it."
Willis finishes with Bryan, Caney Creek and Huntsville, as the Lions finish with battles against the district's top two and Caney Creek. First on that list will be a trip to Conroe to face the Panthers of Caney Creek on Friday.