Wilson and Lakewood have a storied history as Moore League baseball rivals, but it’s fair to say they’ve never played a more disjointed game than the Lancers 5-3 win on Wednesday at Skip Rowland Field.
There were only nine hits in the contest and the 10 combined errors made sure no one recorded an RBI. Lakewood only hit two balls out of the infield during its sixth consecutive victory.
“We haven’t been playing that way,” Lakewood 38-year coach Spud O’Neil said. “We’ve been playing great defense and keeping people from scoring because we don’t score a whole lot of runs.”
O’Neil added that he thought nervousness had a lot to do with the poor play in the field, and Wilson 22-year coach Andy Hall agreed that it was by far the weirdest, sloppiest and strangest game against the Lancers he’s seen.
“We always talk about the importance of playing the game and not the opponent,” Hall said. “It’s pretty clear we had some guys who were pretty juiced up about playing Lakewood. We just couldn’t make a play. Hats off to Lakewood, they were aggressive like they always are.”
Lakewood took a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning thanks to a single by Nohea Mapu, a few errors by the Wilson defense and some aggressive base running. Lakewood only had three hits and the Mapu single was the only ball that went into the outfield against Wilson starter Charlie Royle. The junior pitched 5.2 innings while scattering three hits, two walks and one hit batter.
“It’s disheartening when you’re pitcher doesn’t give up a ball out of the infield and you give up five runs,” Hall said. “We just have to come back and keep going and figure this thing out and put ourselves in a better position to win.”
Wilson did put the possible tying run on base in the seventh inning, but Lakewood junior Anthony Eyanson held on with three solid innings out of the bullpen. He also had a pair of stolen bases and runs scored.
“We were felling confident about today and it’s just another game for us,” Eyanson said. “Wilson is a good team and (when the game gets sloppy) we just have to slow the game down and go to what works and keep trying to execute it. We had to get aggressive and it worked for us.”
Lakewood got a strong start from Diego Gutierrez who gave up four hits and walked two while striking out five in four innings.
Wilson took the lead in the bottom of the third inning when center fielder Xander McLaurin led off with a single. The Bruins loaded the bases on walks drawn by Joe McGrath and Brett Adabayyeh, and McLaurin came in to score when Sebastian Smith was hit by a pitch.
In the top of the fourth, Mapu led off with a single up the middle before taking second and third on a passed ball and a wild pitch. He scored on an error, and another error put Eyanson on to steal a base and score on a wild pitch. Gutierrez also reached on an error and scored in the frame.
Wilson cut the lead to 3-2 in the bottom half of the fourth inning but could’ve done more damage with the bases loaded and no outs. Gutierrez got a strikeout before John Lanterman scored on an error, and then he picked off the runner at third base before a fielder’s choice ended the threat.
The Bruins could’ve done even more damage in the fifth inning with a runner on second but Jacob Elliott made a great catch against the fence in right field.
Lakewood added some insurance runs in the sixth inning when Eyanson and Jared Stephenson both reached on errors and scored on a pair of fielder’s choice miscues.
Abudayyeh kept Wilson in the game by leading off the bottom of the seventh with a single, stealing second base and scoring on an error to make it 5-3.
Wilson’s AJ Castano reached on an infield single with two outs to represent the game-tying run, but Eyanson took a ground ball off the foot and finished the play to get the putout at first and end the game. He had been hit on the same foot in the sixth inning.
“The second one hit me in the exact same spot but I just didn’t want to give up on the play and it ended up finishing the game for us,” Eyanson said. “It hurt for a good 10 seconds but after (the win) it’s good.”
The addition of Eyanson to the pitching rotation will be key to Lakewood’s success. He had been splitting time as the quarterback of the Lancers football team, and has made his presence felt quickly. The Lancers are coming off of a Loara Tournament win where Eyanson and center fielder Blake Jones were named Co-MVPs of the tournament.
“Whether its the start of the game or during the game I have one goal and that’s to execute on the mound,” Eyanson said. “(My pitchers were) not where I wanted them to be but that just comes with time and improvement in practice as I transition from football. I just have to get better and the whole team just has to keep pushing to make a statement.”
Lakewood (9-6, 2-0) travels to Compton on Friday while Wilson (5-9, 3-1) takes on Jordan.