As far as Lewis County baseball coach Jack Lykins is concerned, all four teams in the 63rd District are even.
“It’s wide open,” Lykins added after Russell edged his Lions 3-2 on Monday night.
Red Devils starter Alex Jones worked out of several jams and side-arming freshman Alan Jaworski came on to pick up the save.
“This one feels great,” said Russell junior Heath Hensley, who scored twice and also made two fine scoops at first base for the final two outs. “It’s a big momentum builder for tomorrow.”
The two teams are scheduled to meet again at 6 in Vanceburg.
Russell improved to 2-0 in district play and evened its overall record at 9-9.
“It was a big win, but it’s a regular-season game,” Red Devils coach Mike Martino said. “It was a seed game with a great atmosphere, but tomorrow is another day.”
Jones, a senior left-hander, stranded seven Lewis County baserunners in the first three innings and kept the Lions off the scoreboard until the fifth. He got a strikeout to end the first, second and third innings.
“Alex has been hot and cold all year,” Martino said. “He got into trouble, especially with some walks, but we turned a double play, our left fielder (Garion Robinson) made a couple of running catches, and Alex picked off a runner. We put him out there against teams that are going to challenge (for the postseason) to get him ready. He’s been our workhorse.”
After Jones foiled Lewis County again in the third, Russell broke through for two runs in the bottom of the inning against Isaac Weddington.
The Red Devils loaded the bases with one out on an error, Hensley’s walk and a Bobby May single. Jacob McKee lined an opposite-field single to score Nick Conley, and Robinson followed with a sacrifice fly.
Hensley, who went 2-for-2 at the plate, manufactured a run in the fifth to make it 3-0. He singled and stole second, remaining there when May reached on an error. Hensley then swiped third and continued home as the catcher’s throw sailed into left field.
“On the steal of third, Heath and I had eye contact,” said Martino, who coaches in the third-base box. “I gave him thumbs up. Heath picked the right pitch to go. He’s smart. He was our Most Valuable Player last year.”
Hensley batted over .400 as a sophomore and is on a similar pace this season.
Lewis County, 2-1 against district opponents and 9-6 on the season, mounted a comeback in the sixth inning.
Austin Rucker and Devon Duncan started it with singles. After Jones caught a popped bunt, pinch-hitter Gage Kiebler walked to fill the bases. Sammy Holder lined a run-scoring single to end Jones’s outing.
On Jaworski’s first pitch, Jordan Davis blooped a single just inside the right-field line to get the Lions within 3-2. But Jaworski struck out the next batter, then induced a grounder to the right side. Davis jumped to avoid the ball and made slight contact with second baseman Keelan Rice, who was in position to field the ball. Davis was ruled out for interference, despite Lykins’s objections.
“He blew the call, but we shouldn’t have been in that situation,” Lykins said. “You can’t leave 11 runners on and beat a quality baseball team. The first inning did us in. We load the bases and don’t get anything.”
Jaworski retired the side in order in the seventh, beginning with a strikeout. Hensley saved a couple of Russell throwing errors with his glovework at first to close it out.
“His teammates call him Mega-Mitt,” Martino said. “Heath doesn’t miss a thing, and he’s a great kid, too.”
Although Lewis County outhit the Red Devils 8-4, the Lions’ three errors proved costly.
“We are a much better club than that,” Lykins said. “We have to come out (today) and play better.”
LEWIS CO. 000 002 0 — 2 8 3
RUSSELL 002 010 x — 3 4 0
Weddington, Davis (6) and Wallingford; Jones, Jaworski (6) and Brinkman. W—Jones. L—Weddington.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.