Hornets give up early lead against Lexington

Aiken's Mykal Moore safely dives back to first before Lexington's Collin Steagall can make the tag in the Hornets' 7-4 loss.

For the second time this week, the Lexington High School baseball team came to Aiken for an important game. For the second time this week, the Wildcats played sloppy defense to create an early deficit. And for the second time this week, Lexington rallied in the latter innings to maintain an undefeated Region 5-AAAA record, scoring a 7-4 victory over Aiken High School on Friday. Three errors in the first three innings allowed the Hornets (12-3, 3-3) to take a 3-0 lead. Although all three runs were unearned, letting Wildcats starting pitcher Cole McMillan (3-0) retain a season-long 0.00 ERA, they counted on the scoreboard. But in the fourth through sixth innings, Lexington (12-1, 8-0) used a patient approach at the plate to wear Aiken down. The Wildcats sent 22 men to the plate during the three-inning stretch - batting around in the fifth inning - scoring all seven of their runs during that span. Lexington drew seven of its eight walks in the game in the fifth and sixth innings, scoring three runs in each frame. It put men on base and came up with a big hit or two to quickly turn a deficit into a four-run lead. "Pitching-wise, we looked great through four innings. Then we got some walks and got frustrated," Aiken head coach Derek Luton said. "(All the walks) were huge. You can't win walking that many people." The comeback wasn't totally unexpected. Lexington was ranked No. 2 in the most recent South Carolina Class AAAA poll, so it's more than capable of rallying for a win, something it did on Tuesday at South Aiken. It was the nature of the rally that was unforeseen. Aiken starting pitcher Tyler Jarchow (2-3) was having a strong outing. Through four innings, he only allowed one run and was at his best escaping trouble. He had seven strikeouts over that stretch, and the only walk he allowed in four innings was an intentional pass. "Tyler pitched well," Luton said of Jarchow, whose final line was four runs allowed on seven hits and three walks with eight strikeouts in 41âÑ3 innings. "He got frustrated with the walks. You've got to battle through it." Jarchow wasn't the only Aiken pitcher to struggle with control. He was followed on the mound by Tray Roberts and Bryce Saunders, who combined to give up three runs on no hits but five walks in 2âÑ3 of an inning. Russ Maddrey came on to pitch two shutout innings at the end of the game, but by that point, the damage was done. As disappointing as the pitching was down the stretch, Luton was just as troubled by his team's offense - or lack of it in clutch situations. "We left too many men on again," Luton said. "We struck out with too many men on. We had too many strikeouts." In seven innings, the Hornets were punched out 14 times. Six of the seven frames ended with a strikeout, stranding six runners who were in scoring position. To Aiken's credit, they never quit and brought the potential game-winning run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, which got started by Caleb Heath singling and scoring on a hit by Robert Holmes. For the game, Heath scored three runs and Holmes went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. But the Hornets lacked the approach at the plate the Wildcats displayed, and that allowed the comeback. "We missed a chance there," Luton said of his team, which he hopes responds well when it returns to action when it hosts Brookland-Cayce on Thursday. "(Lexington's) a very good team. I hope they see they can play with anybody. They've got to battle." LEX 000 133 0xx - 7 9 4 AIK 102 000 1xx - 4 5 0 WP: Cole McMillan (3-0) LP: Tyler Jarchow (2-3) SV: A.J. Hart (3) Noah Feit is a reporter for the Aiken Standard, primarily covering sports, and has been a professional journalist for more than a dozen years after graduating from Syracuse University.