For the Bay Rivers District's most recent baseball state finalists, Lafayette and Poquoson, early May is about improving their form for the postseason. Lafayette is doing a better job of that from the looks of its 8-4 win on Tuesday at Poquoson.
In winning for the eighth time in their past 10 games, the Rams (9-7 overall, 8-7 district), who began the season 1-5, showed that their early season concerns about hitting are well in the past. They banged out 12 hits, four of them coming in the top of the seventh when they scored six runs to earn their first come-from-behind win of the season.
"I think this is good, especially with going into the end of the season and the playoffs," said Lafayette catcher John Keane, who was 3 of 4 at Poquoson. "Everyone's starting to hit and we've been pretty good with runners in scoring position."
Poquoson, a 2014 state finalist and '16 state semifinalist, was not good with runners in scoring position. With 11 hits, Islanders (5-9, 5-8) hit the ball better than in most recent games, but they left the bases loaded three times and had a runner thrown out at the plate.
When the Islanders comparatively solid defense and pitching disintegrated in the top of the seventh, a near victory turned into a runaway loss. After starting the season 5-1 the Islanders have lost eight consecutive.
"We just don't have any room for error defensively because we're not hitting enough offensively," Poquoson coach Ken Bennett said.
Starting pitcher Jared Davis and first baseman Hunter Schmidt (4 of 5 batting) had run-scoring singles as Poquoson led 3-0 after two innings. Keane's RBI single was the highlight of the third inning as the Rams cut the Poquoson lead to 3-2, but Davis shut them out the next three innings.
Jared Antle gave the Rams hope in the top of the seventh by leading off with an infield single. He stole second and third bases before the wheels fell off for Poquoson and relief pitcher Andrew Holloway with one out.
Antle sprinted for home on Sutton Perozek's ground ball to Sean Connors at third base. The Islanders should've gotten Antle out easily as Connors threw to home, but Islanders catcher Steven Parker mishandled the ball.
An outfield error on Keane's routine fly ball gave the Rams runners at second and third. Nate Coley drove them in with a double down the third-base line to give the Rams a 5-3 lead. The Rams would add three more runs on Geo Rivera's RBI single, a passed ball and Poquoson's third error of the inning.
Chase Smith pitched the final two innings for Lafayette to pick up the win. He relieved Old Dominion University recruit Rivera, a sophomore who had seven strikeouts in five innings.
In the end, though, it was hitting that carried the Rams. Lafayette, a 2015 state champion, will need to stay hot to earn one of two regional tournament berths out of Conference 18, whose top two seeds will likely be tough Jamestown and Grafton.
"We've got to win the next three games to get ready for the conference tournament," Lafayette coach Rick Schenk said. "Being hot at the right time is the key.
"I thought hitting was going to be our weakness, but last few ball games it's been 10, 11, 12 hits. I'm more worried about our pitching at this point."
LAFAYETTE 8, POQUOSON 4
Lafayette: 002, 000, 6 – 8 12 1
Poquoson: 120, 000, 1 – 3 11 4
WP – Smith, LP – Holloway. Standouts – Lafayette, Antle 2-2 (2 runs) Sullivan 2-4, Keane 3-4, Bono 2-2 (double); Poquoson, C. Jackson 2-3 (double, 2 runs), Schmidt 4-5 (2 RBI), Davis 2-3. Records: Lafayette 9-7, 8-7; Poquoson 5-9, 5-8.
O'Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963