LENOX — Lenox took control with a three-run rally in the fifth inning and Caleb Lange shut the door with 1 2/3 innings of brilliant relief pitching as Lenox defeated Taylor County rival Bedford, 4-2, in a Class 1A district quarterfinal game here Tuesday night.
The Tigers (17-10) gained their third win of the season over Bedford (9-16) in advancing to Thursday’s 7 p.m. semifinal matchup against Murray (17-8), also at Tiger Field. Murray defeated Villisca, 16-8, in the opening game here Tuesday.
In the early innings, the Lenox-Bedford matchup shaped up to be much different than the opening slugfest, as senior pitchers Kolten Sefrit of Bedford and Lenox’s Mason Peterson both tossed two shutout innings to open the game.
A double steal in a first-and-third situation manufactured a Bedford run in the third inning after a one-out single and throwing error on a bunt. It remained a 1-0 game despite a Lenox threat in the fourth with two runners aboard and no outs. Sefrit mowed down three straight batters on two strikeouts and a fly ball to left field.
Two Bedford runners reached base with two outs in the fifth, and on a hot, humid evening Peterson was relieved by Spencer Brown. The Tigers got out of the jam as Peterson fielded a grounder after moving to shortstop, and threw to Todd Stoaks at first for the inning-ending out.
“That was big,” co-coach Kurt Stoaks said. “I could see in Mason’s body language that it was time to make a (pitching) change. Then he made the very next play. That’s what we needed.”
In the bottom of the fifth, things unraveled for Sefrit as Peterson sparked the rally with a leadoff walk and stolen base. A wild pitch and another walk set up Lange, who laced an RBI single to center field to tie the game at 1-1.
Lange was caught too far off first base on a pickoff attempt, but the throw went over first baseman Kody Parrott and allowed Dustin Gordon to score, sending Lange to third. Spencer Brown then smacked a hopping single through the infield to make it 3-1.
“The momentum swung just a little bit on us there,” said Bedford coach Frank Sefrit. “Our goal was to not let Peterson get on base, because he scores almost every time he gets on. We had a couple of errors that inning.”
A leadoff single lost in the lights and two walks loaded the bases for Bedford in the top of the sixth, prompting another pitching change by co-coaches Stoaks and Brian Wood. Lange wasted no time, garnering two strikeouts to quell the Bulldog threat.
Lenox added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth as eighth-grader Jared Hensley hit a two-out single up the middle, scoring on Peterson’s base hit for a 4-2 cushion.
That was more than enough for Lange on this night. The lefthander struck out four of the six batters he faced, including two in the seventh sandwiched around a single by leadoff batter Justin Folkerts. A flyout to Dusten Reed in right field clinched the win.
“I was charting pitches, and I think Lange only threw three balls (to six batters),” Stoaks said. “I could tell when I looked at him, he was ready to go.”
Bedford’s second run scored with Lange on the mound in relief of Brown in the sixth, as Sefrit raced home on a steal with two outs. Lange stepped off the rubber with the wrong foot, resulting in a balk call.
“They had their eight hitter up and Lange was pitching well,” Stoaks said. “That was a good call by Frank. Caleb was just about to start his motion and stepped back with the wrong foot. We knew it would be a battle. When Sefrit is pitching, they are as tough as anyone.”
“Lange came in and pitched really well,” coach Sefrit said. “That was probably the difference tonight.”
In a previous meeting this season, Lenox defeated Murray on May 29, 8-3. Lange, a lefthanded sophomore, struck out seven in a six-hit victory that night.
Lenox 4, Bedford 2
R H E
Bedford 001 001 0 — 2 5 4
Lenox 000 031 x — 4 9 2
B: Kolten Sefrit 5K 3BB and Quentin Sefrit. L: Mason Peterson 4K 3BB, Spencer Brown (5) 0K 2BB, Caleb Lange (6) 4K 0BB and Dustin Gordon. W — Brown. L— Sefrit. 2B — B: Jonathan Cox; L: Lange, S. Brown. RBI — L: Lange 1, S. Brown 1, Peterson 1. Multiple hitters — L: S. Brown 3, Lange 2.