The Cap 8 Conference baseball race that top-ranked Heritage threatened to run away with a week ago is suddenly a logjam at the top.
Sanderson handed the Huskies their second straight loss to force a tie for first place with a 13-7 win Tuesday night on the 10th-ranked Spartans’ home field at Optimist Park.
Heritage, whose 12-game winning streak was snapped Friday against Leesville Road, entered Tuesday’s game with a one-game lead over three teams with two conference losses: Sanderson, Leesville Road and Millbrook.
The Huskies dropped to 14-3 and 7-2 in conference play, while Sanderson improved to 11-4 and 7-2.
“This conference has been solid all the way around as long as I’ve been here,” Heritage coach Tony Piercy said. “When you start out 7-0 (in conference), you’ve got a bull’s-eye on you. We’ve got to learn teams are going to battle us and play a little tougher.”
Sanderson rallied from deficits of 3-0 after the first inning and 4-3 after two to pull away with two runs in the third inning and four in the fourth.
The big blow was catcher Ryan Jeffers’ two-run triple in the fourth inning. He drove in Cory Wood and Noah Almond after they opened the inning with back-to-back singles. Jeffers’ blast was to the right-center field fence, but it was his speed around the bases that turned a double into a standup triple.
His hardest hit ball of the night was off infield umpire Kenny Young, who was between the mound and infield dirt just to the left of second base when Jeffers’ rocket line drive ricocheted off his left leg and flew midway into left field.
“I’ve never seen a play like that, but the triple was a harder hit,” said Jeffers, who is bound for UNC Wilmington. “I choked up on my bat and got a high pitch I was able to drive to the backside.”
Sanderson pitcher Vance Lassiter settled down after a rocky start, shutting out Heritage in the third through sixth innings.
“He pitches better when he’s angry,” Jeffers said. “He was mad after that first inning, and then he found his location.”
Jeffers was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs, Drew McDonald was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and Ray Stocom scored two runs and had two RBIs.