For the second time in three days, the margin separating Runnels and St. Thomas Aquinas was just enough to keep the Raiders atop the District 7-2A standings going into the final week of the regular season.
“It goes back to having such a veteran team,” Runnels coach Tookie Johnson said. “We’ve got a lot of upperclassmen that have been there and done that. They understand it’s a seven-inning game and you’ve got to play every inning as hard as you can.”
Runnels, No. 1 in the LHSAA’s 2A power rankings, followed a 4-3 road victory Friday with a 5-3 win Sunday at Raider Park by erasing No. 2 St. Thomas Aquinas’ two-run lead in the bottom of the first and never trailing again.
The Raiders (17-3, 8-0) extended their winning streak to 10 games and can secure a share of the league’s championship at No. 3 Doyle (18-4, 4-2) on Tuesday.
“We came out and put up the two like we usually do a good job of,” STA coach Garrett Morgan said. “If you can’t get out of the first inning, then you’ve just given them all the momentum. If we thought this team was going to give us something, then we don’t deserve it. They’re a good ballclub.”
STA (19-8, 5-3) led 2-0 in the first, taking advantage of two walks that let the Falcons score on a fielder’s choice and a groundout.
Freshman righthander Nick Canevari (4-0), son of Southern pitching coach Dan Canevari, limited STA to two hits, walked two and struck out three over 4.1 innings.
Johnson replaced Canevari with Ridge Ory, who allowed STA to get within 4-3 on Trey Miluzzo’s RBI groundout. But Ory earned his third save, holding the Falcons scoreless over the last two innings, walking one and striking out three.
“It’s a tough situation, but you’ve got to come in and do your best,” Ory said. “You have to keep throwing strikes and keep the batters off balanced.”
Runnels answered STA’s opening salvo with three runs on three hits in the first, knocking Shafer out of the game after just 24 pitches and no outs.
Hudson Hampton drove in a run with a hard smash to left, while Douglas Gulley was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Hudson’s hustle to the plate capped the inning when reliever Hunter Stanley bobbled Ory’s grounder and his throw was off the plate.
Runnels, which got three of its eight hits from Johnny Johnson, added an unearned run in the second on a run-scoring single from Southern signee Josh Sparks (2-3). The Raiders padded their one-run lead in the fifth when Gulley scored from second on Ory’s single, just beating Reed Bolton’s throw from center.
“I think we were fortunate to have enough things go our way when we were on defense the rest of the game,” Johnson said. “Nick continued to deliver some tough pitches, and so did Ridge.”