WALKER – Baseball is a game of unique twists and turns, with any pitch or swing or defensive play capable of redirecting the outcome in a split second.

When Live Oak and Walker collided Thursday, they played a clean and solid game for most of 6 innings with nothing particularly odd or strange changing things a whole lot.

The final 2 innings, well that was an altogether different story.

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Lane Thomas

Walker's Lane Thomas fires off a pitch.

Walker’s Graham Smith stepped into the batter’s box in a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the 7th inning and found a way to bring a conclusion to the wild and weird night.

Live Oak reliever Dylan McDonald hit Smith with a pitch to force in the winning run as the Wildcats nabbed their third District 4-5A win with a 4-3 decision.

After two glaring defensive miscues prevented either team from nailing down a victory, the ending a fitting as the middle of the district standings clogged up even more.

Smith wore the pitch from McDonald to send Tristan Taylor dancing down the third-base line with the game-winner that left the Eagles stunned after their fourth loss in the last five games.

“In a game like this, the difference between winning and losing is razor-thin,” Live Oak coach Greg Briggs said. “We just weren’t good enough to win and we didn’t deserve to.”

Taylor began the bottom of the 7th inning by waiting out a full-count leadoff walk against Live Oak’s Landon Roberts, who took over on the mound in the 6th inning and should’ve escaped that frame with the score tied, but didn’t (more on that shortly).

With Taylor on first base, Walker DH Dakota Wilson laid down a perfectly placed bunt to advance Taylor. Briggs signaled for Chase Jeansonne to be intentionally walked and then summoned McDonald, a submariner who induces ground balls.

McDonald fell behind Eli Turnage 3-and-0, worked back to a full count and then walked the big Wildcat first baseman to load the bases.

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Graham Smith head shot (2017-18)

Smith

On the fourth pitch to Smith – who had produced singles in his two previous at-bats – McDonald grazed the Walker left fielder in the leg to end the game after a strange final few innings.

“I knew their guy was throwing submarine and I’ve struggled with those guys, so I was just focused on making good contact,” said Smith, who has six hits in his last three games. “My approach was to crowd the plate and make him throw on the outer half so I could it take it backside. He ran in on me and I got the job done.”

The Wildcats (13-15, 3-4 District 4-5A) took a 2-0 lead into the 6th inning with ace Lane Thomas on the mound, but Live Oak (20-10, 3-4) scratched back to even with a two-run at-bat.

Cody Crifasi led off with a single and Cade Freneaux plugged the gap in left-center field with a one-out RBI double. Thomas walked Gabe Schenk, then got a 4-6 fielder’s choice for the second out.

With Roberts at the plate, Walker catcher Spencer Murray couldn’t corral a high fastball and courtesy runner Cameron Dickerson dashed home to tie the game on the passed ball.

In the Wildcats’ half of the 6th inning, Eagles’ starter Bailey Simoneaux ran into immediate trouble when he walked Turnage. Smith chopped a base hit over third baseman Lane Hutchinson, prompting Briggs to bring in Roberts.

Murray laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move both runners up before Roberts walked nine-hole batter Camden Carver to load the bases.

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Gabe Schenk

Live Oak's Gabe Schenk sets up to throw to first base.

Live Oak’s infield moved in to cut off the run at the plate and Roberts coaxed exactly what his team needed when Thomas tapped the ball to second base, where Schenk fielded it cleanly after the second hop and then inexplicably dropped the ball. He recovered in time to throw Thomas out at first base, but the go-ahead run scored for a 3-2 Wildcats’ lead.

Walker couldn’t finish the Eagles off that easily, though.

Hutchinson rammed a leadoff double to left field to start the 7th inning, but didn’t advance on pinch-hitter Kody Guidry’s slow roller to Carver at third base. Hutchinson did move up on Rhett Rosevear’s fly ball to center field, which loomed large when Tristan Vaughn booted Crifasi’s routine ground ball to second base, giving Hutchinson plenty of time to sprint home and knot the score 3-3.

“At the end of the game, it’s unfortunate that the last three runs scored the way they did because it was a pretty good high baseball game,” said Walker coach Randy Sandifer, whose club has notched its three league wins by a total of four runs. “But that’s just the game of baseball. Both teams did some things well and both teams struggled when the game was on the line.”

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Tristan Vaughn

Walker's Tristan Vaughn fields a ground ball and throws to first base for the out Thursday against Live Oak. The Wildcats eased past the Eagles 4-3.

For Walker, getting the victory was key because Thomas was throwing and has been a tough-luck loser a few times this season. In fact, Thomas wobbled after the first few innings, leaving the Wildcats vulnerable, yet they found a way to win.

“When you don’t have your best stuff and your offense is helping you go out there, you know you can give up a hit or two, and that was big for me,” Thomas said. “I knew I had to start mixing my pitches and hitting the corners because they had seen me so much that they know what I have.”

Added Sandifer, “It’s very nice to see us get a win with Lane not having his best stuff. He couldn’t really find a breaking ball, but he competed and made pitches when he needed to.”

Walker chipped away to take a 2-0 lead with single runs in the 1st and 4th innings off of Simoneaux. The first was the result of a Hutchinson error that followed a walk and Rush Azlin’s base hit.

In the 4th frame, Smith kick-started a rally when he singled with one out and Murray joined him on base on a third strike when he swung wildly at a pitch so far inside that Freneaux couldn’t corral it. Carver chased Smith home when he slapped a single through the left side.

Those two runs loomed large because the Eagles missed several chances to get to Thomas, the biggest in the 3rd inning.

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Landon Roberts

Live Oak senior Landon Roberts came in relief against Walker on Thursday.

Roberts yanked a leadoff double to left field but misread a ground ball to the left side and was nailed trying to advance on a 5-6-5 fielder’s choice. Simoneaux roped a single to put Live Oak runners on the corners, but Thomas survived the frame by getting Rosevear to foul out and Crifasi on a fly ball to left field.

The Eagles were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

“That’s been our MO lately,” Briggs said. “We don’t get a bunt down or can’t get a timely hit or get timid running the bases. Those are all things we have to start figuring out pretty quick.”

Because of what is forecast as a rainy Saturday, both teams’ scheduled games were pushed to Monday. The Wildcats play at Scotlandville at 4 p.m. and Live Oak entertains Denham Springs High at 6 p.m.

WALKER 4, LIVE OAK 3

Live Oak     000   002   1   --   3   5   1

Walker       100   101   1   --   4   9   2

Bailey Simoneaux, Landon Roberts (6), Dylan McDonald (7) and Cade Freneaux; Lane Thomas and Spencer Murray. W – Thomas (5-4). L – Roberts (4-1). 2B: Live Oak – Roberts, Freneaux, Lane Hutchinson. Records: Live Oak 20-10, 3-4 District 4-5A; Walker 13-15, 3-4. Up next: Walker at Scotlandville, 4 p.m. Monday; DSHS at Live Oak, 6 p.m. Monday.

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Randy Rosetta is Sports Editor of The Livingston Parish News

& Managing Editor of 4-5ALockerRoom.com

You can reach him at (225) 999.0667 or Randy@LPN1989.com.

Follow on Twitter: @RandyRosetta | @LPN_Sports | @LPNews1898