With his bat, arm and glove, AJ Johnson provided the big plays the Decatur Eagles needed Thursday night.
The Decatur sophomore blasted a two-run homer in the sixth to put the Eagles ahead. In the bottom of the inning, he came on in relief to get the final out with the tying runs on base. Then in the seventh, he knocked down a smash at third and made the putout to help preserve the 5-4 game-one win over Frisco Lone Star in the Class 3A bi-district series at Bronco Field in Denton.
“He did a great job tonight,” said Decatur coach Chris Carter about Johnson.
The win extended Decatur’s winning streak to three and, most importantly, put the Eagles a win away from reaching the area round of the playoffs. The Eagles took on Lone Star at 7:30 p.m. in game two Friday at Bronco Field.
“The first game is huge. It gives us momentum and puts pressure on them,” Carter said.
“They are coming out, focusing and getting in the moment. They are doing a great job of getting focused and making plays.”
With the Eagles down 3-2 in the top of the sixth, Nick Trachta worked a one-out walk. Johnson followed with a two-run blast to turn the game around.
“He just threw me a fastball inside, and I kept my hands in and drove it,” Johnson said.
Decatur added another run in the inning after Christian Carrillo worked a walk and came around to score.
Eagles starter Josh Jones went back to the mound in the bottom of the sixth with the 5-3 lead. Jones, who picked up the win against Krum to give the Eagles the second seed out of 9-3A, gave Decatur another solid showing. He limited Lone Star to three runs on eight hits.
“He did a fabulous job. We looked up and he’d pitched five innings and thrown 38 pitches,” Carter said. “He kept the ball in the zone. They hit the ball but didn’t score a lot. We were able to play good defense behind [Jones].”
After a walk and double in the sixth, Carter brought in Johnson to get a out of a jam. With runners at second and third, he got a grounder to second to end the inning.
“I just threw strikes. I knew my defense would be there to back me up,” Johnson said.
Cain Lowe led off with a single and stole second, but the Eagles stranded him at third in the top of the seventh.
Jerry LaSaint led off the bottom of the seventh with a triple and came in to score to make it a 5-4 game on a one-out double by Jared Eckert.
Carter then handed the ball to sophomore Mason Baur. His first batter hit a hot shot to Johnson at third, which he handled. Baur then recorded a strikeout to end the game and pick up the save.
Friday, Baur tried to pick up the win and end the series as the Eagles’ top starter will get the ball for game two.
“We kept our No. 1 pitcher in our back pocket,” Carter said. “We should be confident going into tomorrow.”