The Cave Spring baseball team continued its 4 games in 6 days stretch Monday afternoon at Knights Field with the second of two straight against Southwest County rival Hidden Valley.
Following wins on the road over Salem last Thursday and Hidden Valley on Saturday, Cave Spring clinched at least a share of the River Ridge District regular season title with the 8-1 victory.
The Knights can claim the title outright Tuesday afternoon at Cave Spring where they entertain Pulaski County in the regular season finale.
Things were tentative Monday through the first three innings as Hidden Valley left-handed starter Sean Gibbons had little trouble in his first trip through the Knight’s lineup, recording nine straight outs to be perfect after three innings.
On the other side, Cave Spring starter Connor Lewis was nearly as effective, surrendering only an unearned run in the Titan third after an error and run-scoring fielder’s choice grounder by Brian Henry had the Titans up 1-0 heading to the fourth.
The second trip through the Cave Spring lineup was the turning point as the Knights sent nine batters to the plate in the bottom of the fourth, scoring five runs.
Jalen Buster got things started with a single, went to second on an errant pickoff attempt and stole third. After Trey Hodson and Caleb Pritchard walked to load the bases, Grant Wilson plated Buster with a sharp single to left for the first Cave Spring run, and Wyatt Hage knocked in two more with a single up the middle. Charlie Urgo’s single produced the fourth Knight run, and with runners at first and third, Cave Spring pulled off the textbook double steal to put the Knights up 5-1.
Cave Spring put the icing on the cake in their half of the fifth, pushing the lead to 8-1. Buster again started the rally, this time with a walk, stole second, and Hodson left the yard with a 2-run blast over the left field fence. Wilson would later score on a wild pitch for the final Knight run.
“I had two strikes and just shortened up,” Hodson said of his third homer in the last three games. So much for choking up on the bat to spray singles.
Meanwhile, Lewis got in a groove on the mound over the final three innings, retiring the Titans in order in the fifth and sixth before allowing an infield single with two out in the seventh to secure his third complete game of the season.
“I just focused on throwing strikes,” Lewis noted afterward. “I knew this team would come through with runs for me.”
“Connor was on his own,” Cave Spring head coach Ricky Lonker pointed out on his pitcher’s performance. “The first time around we hit the ball right at somebody. The second time around we hit it hard and the hits started falling. Jalen (Buster) got both rallies started and stole two bases. He’s a natural and puts the pressure on.”