NASHVILLE — In the bottom of the seventh inning, with the Region 4A championship on the line, the Grace Christian Academy Lions took a risk.
That risk paid off as Caron Maloney’s pinch-hit suicide squeeze sealed an 8-7 win over the Eagleville Eagles to clinch the region championship for GCA on Wednesday night at Trevecca University.
“We had a chance to fold at any time but this team is gritty,” GCA coach Brad Myers said. “This team has always played the game hard. It was unconventional, but my guys always found an answer.”
Eagleville was the beneficiary of early Lion struggles as GCA committed four errors in the first four innings. Combined with five hits, three of which coming from designated hitter Ryan Wells in the early-going, pushed a 5-2 Eagles lead.
“We had big at-bats early that scored some runs when (GCA) made mistakes,” Eagleville coach Travis Holland said. “What hurt us was the middle innings where we give up runs without giving up a hit.”
GCA cashed in on a bases-loaded, no out situation in the fourth inning with three consecutive ground outs to tie the game at 5-5. The Lions regained the lead with two runs in the fifth on three walks and two hit batsmen.
Ryan Wells wrapped up his 4-for-4 night with an RBI single in the sixth to pull Eagleville within 7-6.
“(Wells) is wearing it out and has been that good for us all postseason,” Holland said of the junior DH. “The effort was their all night from all our guys. It was just one of those nights where (GCA) was just better.”
Later in the sixth, GCA sacrificed a run for a double play, allowing the game to enter the seventh inning tied 7-7.
The Lions turned to Grant Solomon to close things out on the mound. He earned the win, tossing two innings and allowing just one run on two hits.
“(Solomon) is a competitor, and in games like these you want your competitors on the mound,” Myers said of the sophomore’s first mound appearance of the year.
Solomon held Eagleville silent in the seventh, setting the table for a game-clinching scenario in the bottom half. The Lions loaded the bases on consecutive Eagleville errors, and a Kitch Cash singled before Maloney’s late-game heroics. Cash scored two runs while batting 3-for-4 including a two-run home run in the second inning.