When it comes to building a resume, Lakeview Academy baseball coach Deuce Roark prefers to use the old expression “iron sharpening iron” as his approach to scheduling the right competition for the young season.
Roark’s “scrappy” Lions added its first big bullet point to that sheet on Monday in Lakeview.
Lakeview Academy had a six-run surge in the bottom of the second inning on top of strong outings by senior starting pitcher Rob Hamby and Evan Gravitt in relief to hold off Class AAAA West Hall 7-6 Monday in Gainesville.
After the Spartans (5-3) used the same formula the previous week with a big-scoring inning to secure a 9-6 victory at West Hall, Lakeview Academy (2-5) rebounded by scattering a combined seven hits over six innings, getting two apiece from freshman shortstop Andrew Estes (2 for 4, run scored, RBI) and Hamby (2 for 3) from the top and middle of the order.
It was a building block for Roark’s team, which he described to be a nice mixture of seniors to freshmen.
“It’s a fantastic win,” the coach said. “Not only is it a good win for us early, that’s a great ball team. I have a lot of respect for them. They make us better. Our kids have grown, and gotten better, and I’m just proud of them.”
Despite a mini rally by West Hall in the top of the third, Hamby held steady from the mound to eventually pick up the win for Lakeview Academy. He struck out three, while giving up just three hits and one earned run over four innings. He threw out a runner at second base to escape a mini jam for the last out in the top of the fourth before Gravitt (3 innings pitched, 3 hits, one earned run) took over in the final three frames.
“You know, baseball is a game that ebbs and flows, like any sport. You gotta take those lows and not make them so low, the highs not so high, kind of level them out. I think he does a good job of that,” Roark said of his senior ace. “And Evan (Gravitt) coming in at the end of the game to be very steady, very accountable, right now he’s kind of the glue in our pitching staff.”
Estes, who tallied both hits in his first two at-bats, smacked an RBI-single to right field to put the Lions up 2-0 in the bottom of the second. Four batters later, Hamby drove a 2-1 pitch just out of the reach of a diving Cameron Shirley in right field to plate seniors Brannon Browner and Bailey Whitlock — both who previously reached on a fielder’s choice and shortstop error.
West Hall’s starter walked three of four batters to load the bags before Sam Stewart — who later scored on a shortstop error — drew an RBI-walk for Lakeview Academy’s first run. Josh Henderson also drew an RBI-walk for the Lions’ fourth run before the Spartans’ pitcher was pulled.
“We had a little bit of it all,” Roark said of the second inning. “We had an aggressive approach at the plate, and also patience. Those two things, when you can combine the two, success will happen. We got to continue to take that — and we may have lost it in the later innings — but if we can continue to use that, then you’ll typically find some success.”
West Hall didn’t waver, tightening the gap in the third inning. They found the board thanks to a pair of mishaps in the infield, the first on a fielding error from the pitcher to plate their first run. Bailey Kozloski (1 for 4), who reached on a single, scored on a wild pitch two batters later. West Hall’s Cameron Shirley plated Cole Wilson on an RBI triple down the left-field line with two outs to cut it to 6-4.
Bailey Whitlock (2 runs scored) stole home on a catcher’s error to give the Lions an insurance run in the bottom of the fourth before the Spartans made one last climb.
The Spartans got an RBI-single from Cole Wilson (1 for 4) in the top of the fifth and a Tyler Grindle sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth for their final two runs.
Jeffrey Jenkins was the lone Spartan with a multi-hit performance, going 2 for 3 with a double and two runs scored.
Lakeview Academy visits Riverside Military Academy 4:30 p.m. today. West Hall hosts Johnson at 5:55 on Wednesday in Oakwood.