Neville head coach Paul Guerriero emphasized the importance of practice after No. 4 Neville saw its 3-0 lead dissipate into a 4-3 loss to No. 5 Lakeshore in Game 1 Friday night.
"Base running cost us again," Guerriero said. "It's the same thing we've been talking about all week. We've had several practices with base running, but they didn't believe it was important at the time, and hey, they believe it now. Sometimes you have to get popped in the mouth to understand that it's important. We had like six outs on the bases tonight, which is atrocious."
The (20-15) Tigers went from counting down the outs for Brody Green's perfect game to adding up the mistakes that allowed the (21-11) Titans to taste victory in a nine-inning contest.
Early on, though, it was all Neville.
As far as pitch counts go, Green couldn’t have asked for a much better opening inning. Green sat down the top of Lakeshore’s order on nine pitches, which included a three-pitch strikeout.
The Tigers picked up where they left off offensively after scoring a combined 23 runs in a two-game sweep against Minden. Brennan Surles led off the game with a double and Zeb Ruddell followed with a walk. That’s when Daniel Breard laced a shot over the Lakeshore right fielder’s head to put the Tigers on the board first. An RBI groundout that followed put the Tigers in the driver seat, up 2-0 after one.
"Early in the game, we're attacking first pitch, fastball strikes. Second half of the game, we probably had 10 or 11 guys take the fastball strike and then have to chase his pitches," Guerriero said.
While Green wasted no time filling up the zone with strikes, his defense also did their part. In the second inning, Wes Robinson laid out to snag a line drive at short, and the Tiger faithful let him know how much they appreciated that at Embanato Field.
Green threw just 21 pitches through three innings, as he worked quickly through Lakeshore’s order without giving up a single hit.
“I thought (Green) did a great job,” Guerriero said. “He put us in position to win.”
Lake Grant contributed to the stellar defensive gems in the fourth inning when he stabbed a line drive out of the air and recovered quickly to throw Lakeshore’s Deion Weilbaecher out at first.
The Tigers added an insurance run in the fourth inning when Robinson put a ball in play to score Grant from third.
Surles collected his second double of the game in the fifth inning.
Green entered the sixth inning with his perfect game in tact, but with two outs in the inning, Lakeshore’s Tyler Steed hit a little chopper down to short and beat the throw for an infield single. Eli Lirette followed with an RBI triple. A passed ball slipped through Henton Roberts’ legs to score another run in the sixth, and suddenly the Tigers were clinging to a 3-2 lead after a 3-0 lead felt insurmountable with Green’s perfect game.
With runners on second and third with one out, Lakeshore’s Morgan Sauber hit a grounder to third. Grant charged and picked it cleanly before throwing the runner out at home for the second out. A passed ball to the next batter, however, allowed the tying run to cross home plate.
In the bottom half of the inning, Brett Batteford pinch hit for the first time since suffering his minor knee injury approximately six weeks ago. With one out, Batteford drew a walk and Ethan Kelley followed with a single. With two on and one out, Surles lined a shot that was destined to bounce off the wall as the game winner, but Lakeshore’s Lirette made a leaping grab to rob the game-winning shot. Breard flew out two batters later to end the inning and send the Tigers and Titans into extras.
Lakeshore’s Morgan Sauber’s day ended with 112 pitches thrown through 7.2 innings pitched. He allowed eight Tiger hits and four walks.
Green went the distance, allowing two earned runs on four hits and no walks.
The Titans took their first lead of the game in ninth inning. A soft grounder to first resulted in Breard making a throwing error to home plate, which allowed Lakeshore to take the 4-3 lead.
"It's not always the best team. It's the team that plays the best," Guerriero said. "And it's not playing best for six innings. It's playing best for the entire game. And they didn't play great early on, but they played better in the second half when we started giving them a couple things."
Game 2 between the Tigers and Titans will be at noon Saturday. Should a Game 3 be required, it will follow at 3 p.m.