By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
STIONEWALL – Seems strange to say of a game that finished 18-8, but a couple of plays in the first inning of the North DeSoto-Loyola matchup Monday evening may have played a pivotal role in determining the winner.
In the top of the first, Loyola loaded the bases with no outs and looked primed to get out to an early lead. Cleanup hitter William Soignier hit a hard ground ball that appeared to be headed to the outfield, but Griffin third baseman Kaleb Graham dove to make the stop, threw home for the force and the relay to first completed the double play.
“If he doesn’t make that play,” North DeSoto coach Bo Odom said, “that’s two runs and who knows what happens. That play was huge.”
Switch now to the second pitch in the bottom of the inning, when North DeSoto leadoff hitter Dalton Hill took a fastball to the opposite field for a home run. What could have been a Loyola lead a few minutes earlier was suddenly a Griffin advantage.
It was the beginning of an offensive explosion as North DeSoto scored multiple runs in every inning until a single run in the bottom of the fifth ended it, rewarding the Griffins with their 20th win in 23 games this spring.
Hill was far from done after his leadoff homer. He hit another one in the third inning – opposite field once again – as part of a four-RBI night. He also pitched the final two innings in relief of starter Braden Richardson.
“He didn’t have his control at all,” Odom said of his starter. “We weren’t going to pitch him long anyway, but he walked a bunch and hit a couple of batters.”
That and a few key hits by the Flyers made a game of it early. After limiting the damage in the opening-inning jam, Loyola tied things with two runs in the top of the second. The Griffins responded with three in the bottom of the second, but back came the Flyers with two more in the top of the third.
Then Hill’s second home run helped North DeSoto to a five-run third that made it 10-4.
“He’s really been swinging it well,” Odom said of Hill. “He’s been hitting the ball hard. His approach is to hit the ball in the gaps but they got out tonight.”
Loyola closed to 10-8 in the fourth on RBI by Reagan Coyle, Soignier and Chandler Carnahan, but the Grffins put the foot on the accelerator and scored seven times in the fourth – six of those runs coming after an infield error with two ours kept the inning alive.
Catcher Robert Ashley was 4-for-4 with three RBI and Richardson and Peyton Matthews each had three hits. The top four batters in the Griffins’ lineup were a combined 12-for-16 with 12 RBI.
“We do a good job with quality at bats,” Odom said. “We see a lot of pitches and try to be a tough out battling with two strikes.”
The Griffins have a crucial two-game series with Evangel in the District 1-4A race Thursday and Friday. “There are a bunch of teams playing well in the district,” Odom said. “It’s going to be a dogfight.”
Coyle had three hits for Loyola. Parker Thomas had two and Carnahan had three RBI. The Flyers (13-11) will play a District 1-3A game tonight against Bossier at Cicero Field at 6 p.m.
Photo by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL