Prep Baseball: Ledford 5, Salisbury 3
By Mike London
WALLBURG ó Ledford’s Justin Livengood punched the air after sneaking a third-strike changeup past Salisbury slugger Alex Britt in the fifth inning.
“I was looking for a curveball,” Britt said with a sigh. “Didn’t know he had a changeup like that. He fooled me.”Livengood’s emotional fist-shake proved it wasn’t an ordinary game. He proved in a 5-3 CCC victory over Salisbury he isn’t an ordinary right-hander.
“The changeup separates him,” Ledford coach Chris Adams said. “He’s tough when he’s got command of two pitches, but when he’s also got the changeup, it’s a whole different ballgame.”
Livengood, a junior, fanned 13 and pitched Ledford (11-1, 4-0) into first place. Salisbury (11-3, 4-1), which got good pitching from Britt and a homer from Russell Michalec, fell to second.
Britt pitched a four-hitter to win at Ledford last season, but Livengood and the Panthers were a little better on Friday.
“Ledford’s really strong,” Salisbury coach Scott Maddox said. “Their record isn’t what it is for no reason.”
Livengood pitched carefully to the top half of Salisbury’s lineup and went right after the bottom with fastballs. Salisbury’s 6 through 9 hitters were 0-for-12 with two weak groundouts and 10 strikeouts.
“The bottom of our lineup was overmatched,” Maddox said. “We took too many first-pitch fastballs. If you swing you’ve got a chance, but you’ve got no chance if that bat’s on your shoulder. Guys kept complaining about the strike zone, but I don’t want to hear about it. From where I was standing, a lot of those pitches looked pretty good.”
The plate umpire was popular veteran Dirk “You’d Better” Swing ó always better news for hurlers than hitters. The quick game featured 20 strikeouts and only three walks, and Swing shook off a fifth-inning foul ball that bounced and struck him in the throat. After a few sips of water, he smiled broadly and eagerly resumed calling strikes ó and occasional balls.
Salisbury (11-3, 4-1) made no errors, but it didn’t make a couple of plays that would have helped Britt. The Hornets also didn’t get it done at the plate, leaving six in scoring position.
When Ledford failed to turn a double play in the first, Britt hammered a two-out double to put the Hornets ahead 1-0.
Livengood homered leading off the second to tie it.
Catcher Patrick Koontz and Livengood drilled singles to start the Ledford fourth, but Britt got a strikeout, followed by a routine groundball to second. Ben Ijames had a chance to turn two with a smooth pickup, but he settled for an out at first base after a brief bobble.
With the inning still alive, Ledford’s No. 7 hitter Sam Berrier ripped a clean single to center for two huge runs.
“I hit my spot ó fastball, outside corner,” Britt said. “He just hit it. Good hitter.”
Salisbury scratched a run with two walks, a wild pitch and David Ijames’ groundout to make it 3-2 in the top of the fifth, but Ledford countered in the bottom half. With two outs, Ricky Vaughn slashed a ball to third that was too hot for Dustin Dupre to glove. That brought Koontz to the plate, and he belted a towering two-run homer for a 5-2 lead.
“All year, we’ve done that,” Adams said. “Someone scores on us, we answer once the bats are in our hands.”
Michalec rifled a homer in the seventh, and the Hornets put the tying runs on base when Ben Ijames singled with one out and Britt was hit by a pitch with two outs. But Livengood got the outs he needed, jamming David Ijames for a roller to second and getting Robbie Ijames on a routine flyball to center to end the game.
“We beat a scary team,” Adams said. “Livengood had to throw a lot more pitches than usual to get through those first five guys. They took good cuts. They were all tough outs.”
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or email@example.com.