WATSON – Pitcher Sal Palermo gave Live Oak the start it needed and then Lane Hutchinson landed the hit that lifted the Eagles to a 7-3 victory Tuesday over St. Amant.
Palermo was perfect after his first trip through the lineup en route to a three-hit, five-strikeout gem over six-plus innings of work where he allowed two runs with Jacob Loveland finishing the seventh. A walk and single in the fourth inning forced the Eagles to attempt back-to-back aggressive plays at the plate that didn’t come out in their favor.
“I thought I was pretty good,” Palermo said. “I didn’t really have my best stuff. My arm didn’t feel as live as it has on some nights, but I was able to pound the zone and attack most of the hitters. Good things happen when you put it in play and let your defense worry about it since I have a great defense behind me. They tend to make plays.”
With his team clinging to a one-run lead, Hutchinson blasted a two-run shot to give Live Oak all the separation it needed to cap off a 2-for-3 night at the plate, with both hits going for extra bases.
“(Live Oak Coach Jesse) Cassard always does a good job of getting on us about staying in the game and playing hard, winning every pitch,” Hutchinson said. “We just bought into his mindset and we’ve been working on it. It paid off big time.”
Live Oak (6-3) took a 1-0 lead out the gate when Hutchinson and Brant Smith put together a two-out double and single.
St. Amant (3-5) charged back in the fourth inning, kickstarted by a bloop single into shallow right by Reese Lipoma. He moved to second on a steal before Alex LeBourgeois walked, and both runners advanced into scoring position on a bunt. A groundball to short put the runners in motion, something Live Oak sensed coming.
Shortstop Rhett Rosevear threw the ball home with time, but the catch wasn’t made cleanly. The next batter hit a short tapper to Palermo, who had no choice but to flip the ball out the glove just a second too late.
“We knew they weren’t going to get much because (Palermo) throws so many strikes,” Cassard said. “We brought the infield in and Rhett made a nice play. (Kody) Guidry makes that play 99 times out of 100, the ball just came out of his glove. We tried to tell them to respond, don’t let things get you down. Bad things happen every now and then, you just have to get back up and make the next play. Which we did.”
Live Oak pulled back in front in the bottom half of the inning. They drew a walk and hit by pitch that came around to score following an error and a single from Colin Martin that narrowly stayed fair.
A leadoff single from Rosevear in the bottom of the fifth set the table for Hutchinson, who took turned on an inside pitch to left field.
“With a runner on second I was looking to hit something backside,” Hutchinson said. “He ended up throwing a curveball that hung a bit, so I was able to turn and burn.”
Smith followed with a double to center that bounced off the bottom of the wall, moving to third on a wild pitch. After Guidry walked, Jake Burchfield scored Smith and advanced Guidry on a sacrifice bunt.
Burchfield then scored on an error to give Live Oak a 7-2 lead.
“We put a little pressure on them, and good things started to happen,” Cassard said. “We had two guys put balls in play with two strikes, and they ended up being two-out hits for us. Which is a back-breaker.”