Louisa County baseball’s Wayne Butler knew that even though it was the first inning, it was critical that he come up with a hit for the Lions. In this year’s edition of the Jefferson District, you can’t afford to waste any opportunities — the margin of error is just too small every single night.
“I just had to make something happen, I couldn’t let my team down,” Butler said. “Bases loaded, I had to get a hit.”
Butler came through, ripping a 3-RBI, bases-clearing double to stake the Lions to a four-run lead. Lliam Grubbs handled most of the rest of it from there in a 5-2 complete game victory.
“That gave me a lot of confidence with Wayne’s nice hit,” Grubbs said. “That definitely set the mentality for the rest of the game, I had way more confidence with that first inning.”
Grubbs struck out 10 in seven innings of work, surrendering just two walks and three hits, led by a couple of doubles by Jack Masloff and Sam James in the fifth inning that got Western on the board when James plated Masloff with one out. Grubbs, a junior and a JMU pledge, wasn’t fazed and escaped with a pair of strikeouts sandwiched around an error. He got into another jam in the sixth and with two on came up with an inning-ending strikeout to snuff out the threat.
“Welcome to Jefferson District baseball — our district is good and you’re going to see good pitching every night,” said Louisa coach Kevin Fisher. “Lliam threw outstanding for us tonight.”
Butler’s blast was one of just six hits that the Lions managed to scratch out, but it did enough damage. The Lions came into the game with just a single district loss to Orange and the win ties them at the top of the heap with the Warriors who were unbeaten in the Jefferson coming into the contest. But Butler’s hit was exceptional because the Lions have largely been getting by on their pitching and defense to date.
“We’re having a good year but when we’ve gotten runners on we haven’t been able to get the big hit and we got it tonight,” Fisher said. “If we keep doing those things we can be tough.”
Aaron Szalankiewicz tacked on another run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth that provided some insurance against a Western rally. Dakota Hall finished 2-for-3 on the night with a double while Ethan Fletcher went 2-for-4 with a run scored.
Western’s pitching staff combined for a night that didn’t read particularly poorly in the scorebook despite the loss. They surrendered four runs in the first, with Jack Masloff taking over for Tenuta when an error complicated Tenuta’s start. But the Warriors only gave up six hits and a single earned run while issuing just three walks and striking out four.
The Warriors were coming off of a close, hard-fought win against Orange County on Monday night and the lapses in the first inning were enough to doom Western.
“If you make some mistakes and we had two errors and a sandwiched in there and then you give up a hit, that’s actually how we won last night,” said Western coach Skip Hudgins. “Their pitcher threw a great game, he kept us off balance, he did a really nice job. They out-everythinged us tonight.”
The Lions will host Monticello Thursday in another key Jefferson District clash while Western steps out of the JD Saturday to take on Fort Defiance.