All four Columbia County baseball teams won bids to the state playoffs, but only three advanced to the second round.
Harlem's Rusty James gets a high five from teammate Clayton Bruce after being
batted in by Matt Lewis in the fifth inning of the first game of a
double header against Savannah Christian on Friday during the state final championship series.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Evans, Greenbrier and Harlem all swept double headers at home in the first round Friday. Lakeside lost both their games at Hardaway, ending their season.
The three winning teams will play another double header today in the best of three series. If the games are split, a deciding third game will be played Thursday.
Evans 1-10, Dacula 0-0
The Evans Knights advanced after defeating Dacula in a AAAAA double header.
In the first contest, pitcher Hank McCladdie threw 117 pitches in 10 innings and walked just three batters. McCladdie's superb effort, with strong support from the field, stretched the game into a 10-inning marathon session.
In the 10th, center fielder Shawn Ward singled to first, then advanced to second on a sacrifice by short stop Chris Rhea. Catcher Mike Armstrong got a short hit that advanced Ward to third, then third baseman Ken Rayborn's hit found a hole near second base to bring him home for the single score of the game.
The second game started the way the first ended, with a single Evans score in the first inning.
In the third inning, the Knights showed their batting power by scoring five runs, including a homer from DH Ryan Pressley.
Evans capped the effort in the fifth inning with four more runs.
Pitcher Brad Freeman's no-hitter held the visiting Falcons to zero, and the game was over in the fifth inning.
"The pitchers carried us," Evans coach Ricky Beale said. "Freeman threw a no-hitter, and McCladdie had no runs in 10 innings."
The Knights advanced to round two scheduled for today at 5 p.m. at Evans against Lassiter.
Harlem 2-6, Savannah Christian 1-5
Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis couldn't remember how terribly his Bulldogs began the year. At some point, his team was 3-9. Or was it 3-10 or 3-11?
Tough non-region contests gave Harlem early losses. It also helped the Bulldogs prepare for region and postseason play.
Harlem won its first Class-AAA playoff series in three years when it swept Savannah Christian Friday.
"I'm proud of this team, because they scrap and don't give up," Lewis said. "They're hard-nosed. They believe in themselves."
The series win almost came at a high cost, when pitcher Clayton Bruce fell to the ground following a collision with third baseman James Davis on the final out - a foul pop Davis caught to secure Harlem's 6-5 Game 2 win.
"I liked to have had a heart attack," Lewis said. "I thought he hurt his knee."
Bruce got up with a slightly twisted ankle, good news for the Bulldogs. The ace left-hander tossed a two-hit gem in the first game before picking up the save in the second contest.
The Bulldogs (15-13) will now face Dublin in an away series today.
In the first game, Harlem went hitless the first three innings but managed seven singles the final four frames.
Savannah Christian left six men on base, threatening to score in all but two innings.
In the second game, Harlem broke a 1-all tie in the third inning.
Jordan Whitaker lined a two-out shot off the pitching mound rubber, scoring Matt Lewis from third. Chris Day followed with a two-run triple.
Harlem added two runs in the fifth, the latter classic Jimmie Lewis baseball.
With two outs, pinch runner Eric Schnitzler wandered off first and purposely got caught in a rundown. Pinch runner Tristan Scott scored from third.
Savannah Christian rallied for four runs in the sixth. But Bruce shut the door in the seventh.
Greenbrier 6-8, Troup County 2-1
Greenbrier swept a double-header against Troup County in an AAAA contest.
Greenbrier struck first in the second inning of Game 1.
With runners on second and third, Chris Johnson walloped a RBI single to center field.
A wild pitch from Tiger hurler Jake Martinec allowed DH Sam Pitts to trot home.
Troup came back in the fourth inning with a two-run homer from Courtney Billingslea.
Greenbrier followed with three runs of their own in the fourth.
A single from Brad Ramsbotham drove home Johnson. A bunt from Brooks Robinson then loaded up the bases. Pack catcher Jeremy Armstrong took advantage with a two-RBI single to right field.
The last run in the game came in the sixth inning off an Armstrong home run.
Tiger pitcher Jeffery Tucker came off a three-week absence due to an arm injury to throw a near flawless four innings in the second game before losing steam.
Two walks and a single loaded up the bases in the fifth for Greenbrier when Pitts hit an RBI single. Armstrong scored following a sacrifice fly to deep left field by Ryan Wallace.
In the sixth inning, the Pack bats truly came to life. Doubles from Armstrong, Michael Newman, Wallace and Scott Wandless produced six runs for Greenbrier.
"Tucker pitched a heck of a game," Greenbrier coach Ed Williams said. "He was throwing a lot of curves and sliders that we're getting by us, but then we started batting and turned things around."
Wandless pitched a no-hitter leading up the seventh when Troup County lead off batter Logan Dempsey drove a line drive past the infield for a single.
"Last year, I had a no-hitter going until the lead-off batter in the seventh got a single, and now it happened again," Wandless said. "I guess it just wasn't meant to be."
Dempsey then stole second and advanced to third on a Tiger single. A failed base stealing attempt from pinch runner Greg Emory allowed Dempsey to score in the confusion.
Greenbrier (22-2) next plays at home against Alexander today.
Hardaway 7-5, Lakeside 6-1
Hardaway High evened the score Friday at one apiece with Columbia County.
The Region 2-AAAA Hawks avenged a second-round loss from last season to Greenbrier by knocking off Lakeside High in two games at home.
The Hawks (21-9) rallied from four runs down in the sixth inning in Game 1 to win 7-6 and never trailed in the second game winning 5-1.
A two-run double by Jeff Rowland propelled the Panthers to a 6-0 lead in the fourth inning of the first game. Hardaway bounced back with two runs in the fifth.
Eric King's three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth pushed the Hawks past the Panthers.
"We had a 6-0 lead and we lost," Lakeside coach Jimmy Smith said. "That is a tough way to go. We lost any momentum we might have had."
David Williamson pitched a complete game for Hardaway in Game 2, surrendering one run - a solo home run by Richard Flake in the seventh inning.
Jacob Anderson went 3-4 with a solo home run for the Hawks in the second game.
"We pitched well, and our pitching has been good all season," Smith said. "We just didn't hit the ball. We have no one to be mad at but ourselves."
Lakeside finished the season with a 20-9 record.
Staff Writer Chris Gay and correspondent Jerrie MacIntire contributed to this article.
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