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Lafayette baseball sweeps Ridgeland to advance to first 5A North-Half final

OXFORD – One year after missing the playoffs and going 11-12, the Lafayette Commodores are off to the 5A North Half final.

After winning the opening game of their 5A quarterfinal series 15-8 at Ridgeland, the Commodores turned around and won a very different 4-1 game on Friday night to complete the sweep.

Both starting pitchers had their way early in this game. Despite neither being at their best and a few hits going on each side, it was simply a game controlled by Ridgeland’s Kolby Smith and Lafayette’s Wilson Varner for most of the early innings. Just one evening after the two teams combined for 23 runs, neither pitcher allowed a single run through the opening four innings of play.

It was an interesting game in a sense. Despite putting numerous zeros on the scoreboard, it wasn’t a perfectly clean day on the mound for either side. Both pitchers allowed multiple baserunners in scoring position but were just able to pitch well out of jams with runners on base over the first half of the game.

“Wilson was tight and didn’t have his best stuff. He put up zeros, but he didn’t have a clean inning until the fourth,” said head coach John Walker. “That’s unlike him… but he stayed the course and pitched out of some jams.”

Ridgeland got on the board first with an RBI double in the fifth inning. With runners on the corner and one out following an error at shortstop, Ridgeland’s Ethan Wiley ripped one to right field to open the scoring. The hit and subsequent walk ended Wilson Varner’s game.

With the bases loaded, Lafayette brought Taylor Tarver to finish the fifth. Tarver struck out the next batter and got the last to fly out to right to end the damage at just one run.

“He’s the kind of kid where situations really don’t get to him. He’s an easygoing laid back kid,” Walker said. “It’s not in his make-up to have situations get bigger than him. I had all the confidence in the world he would be able to get us out of that jam.”

It didn’t take the Commodores long to bounce back from the one run deficit.

With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Lafayette’s Ben Harper hit a double to right field that should have scored Braxton McCord from first base. McCord missed the bag at second base, had to go back and re-tag, before being held at third. He scored on a sacrifice fly on the next at-bat to tie the game at 1-1 and Harper slid in safely at third.

Later in the inning, with the bases loaded and two outs, Hunter Coleman hit a blooper into right field scoring two runs. A third run on the play would score on an error, putting Lafayette up 4-1. No more runs would cross the plate as the Commodores finished off the series.

For Taylor Tarver, it’s a unique two-game stretch. He started the first game of the series Thursday but was very much off his game. Walker pulled Tarver very quickly Thursday after just one out and walking three. He didn’t even make it out of the first inning. Tonight, it was all zeros.

“He pulled me automatically. I was sitting there yesterday the whole time just thinking I was ready to go no matter what,” Tarver said. “When he brought me in I was ready to go. I wasn’t even thinking about the situation.”

Over the course of the whole series, Zach Meagrow has to be the Commodore standout offensively. He closed the series with six straight hits, getting intentionally walked in his final at-bat Friday.

With the win, the Commodores are off to their first 5A North Half final. They will play the winner of Lewisburg and Saltillo next week with a trip to the state championship on the line.