Joe Ruth's walk-off two-run home run gave second-ranked LaGrange an 11-9 win over Piedmont and a sweep of a USA South doubleheader Friday night at Cleaveland Field. The Panthers (27-4, 10-2 USA South) outlasted the Lions (14-16-1, 6-6 USA South) in a marathon first game, 13-9. The two wins allowed LC to take the USA South series.
The Panthers rallied from a 7-3 deficit in the sixth to take a 9-7 lead heading to the ninth. Piedmont pushed across two runs off reliever Ethan Kramer (1-2) in the top of the inning to tie the game.
Piedmont reliever Kyle York quickly retired the first two Panthers. McKinley Erves kept the inning going with a hit through the left side to bring up Ruth. York fell behind 2-1 to the Panthers' third baseman. Ruth sent York's next pitch deep over the fence in right center to give LC the walk-off 11-9 win and setting off a home plate celebration.
Ruth went 4-for-6 in the game, with the home run, scored three runs and had three RBIs. In four games this week, Ruth hit .571 with four home runs, 16 RBIs, and a slugging percentage of 1.333. He leads the conference in RBIs and tied for the home run lead with nine.
Trailing 7-3, the Panthers got within a run in the sixth. Ruth's two out RBI single made it 7-4. Jack Layrisson's pop fly behind second base was dropped as Erves scored and Ruth came all the way around from first to cut the Lions' lead to 7-6.
The Panthers took the lead with a two-out three-run seventh inning. Nate Darwin walked and advanced to third on Gabriel Pallo's base hit. Rhett Mixon's RBI single tied the game as Darwin came home. Pallo scored on a wild pitch and Ruth's single up the middle brought Mixon home to go up 9-7.
LC finished the game with 16 hits. Ruth's four hits led the team, while Layrisson and Pallo had three each.
Stephen Bartolotta went the first five innings, giving up six runs, walking two, and striking out four. Jack Richards gave up an unearned run in three innings of work. Richards did not walk a batter and struck out four.
The day's first game was a near four-hour marathon. The two teams combined for 22 runs, 25 hits, and 21 walks. The pitching staffs threw a total of 407 pitches.
Piedmont tied the game with a run in the fourth. The Panthers broke the tie with an eight-run explosion in the seventh, sending 14 batters to the plate, to grab a 13-5 lead. Pallo had a two-run single, and Ruth added a double to drive in two more runs in the inning.
Jacob Brown, the third of five Panther pitchers in the game, threw four shutout innings to raise his record to 5-0. He gave up one hit, walked two and struck out four.
LC had 12 hits in the game. Chatham had three hits, including his 150th career hit.
The Panthers play Rhodes on Tuesday at Cleaveland Field in Williamson Stadium. Game time is 2 p.m.