Down 2-1 in the top of the seventh, a stellar comeback along with a complete game performance from senior Jackson Sleeper helped fuel a 6-2 win for the Grace Christian Academy Lions (37-5) over the Northpoint Christian Trojans (27-10) at Middle Tennessee Christian School in Murfreesboro Tuesday night.
The victory advanced them to the next game in the Division 2-A state tournament winner’s bracket.
“That is a really good ball club,” said GCA head coach Brad Meyers. “They shut us down for a long time, and we just stuck with what we do. We have had big innings all year long. No reason to stop now.”
In the top of the first inning, Northpoint Christian junior starter Hudson Brown stranded a runner on first recording a strikeout and holding GCA scoreless.
The Trojans got on the board in the bottom of the first with a two-run homer by Brown to grab the lead 2-0.
Brown kept GCA from rallying in the top of the second, recording two strikeouts and a flyout to center field to stay at 2-0.
GCA starting pitcher Jackson Sleeper struck out the side in the bottom of the second.
Brown drew three pop outs in the top of the third, as the Lions could not break through in the frame.
In the bottom of the third, Sleeper stayed in the groove, drawing two pop outs to second base and a strikeout as the game remained at 2-0.
GCA left a runner on first as Brown continued to deal forcing a pop out, a ground out, and a strikeout in the top of the fourth.
Sleeper rallied, after giving up a leadoff single in the bottom of the fourth, recording a strikeout, a fly-out to center field, and a pop-out to right field keeping the score at 2-0.
Brown kicked it back in gear for Northpoint Christian after a leadoff walk, recording two strikeouts and a fly-out to center field in the top of the fifth.
Sleeper answered in the bottom of the fifth, retiring the side in order with two fly-outs and a strikeout to stay at 2-0.
GCA got on the board in the top of the sixth on a ball put in play by senior Dean Bechman, scoring the runner from third on an error by the Northpoint Christian infielder to cut into the Trojans lead 2-1.
The Lions fielding helped keep the contest at 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth, ending the frame on a double play turned by the GCA infield.
In the top of the seventh inning the Lions came roaring into the frame, piling up five runs to grab their first lead of the contest 6-2. The runs were scored on an RBI-single from senior Parker Wyatt, a two-run homer by junior Trace Phillips, and an RBI-single from Bechman. A run also scored on a wild pitch.
“We hit the ball the last inning and put some pressure on them,” said Myers. “We were fortunate to come out with the win.”
Sleeper capped off his complete game of work with two strikeouts and a flyout to center field to seal the Lions win of their opening game in the Division 2-A state tournament 6-2.
“He (Jackson) came through big,” said Meyers. “He has been throwing the ball well all year long. He competed and stayed with it.”
GCA will take on Goodpasture at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
“I expect the guys to come out and play hard,” said Meyers.