A three-game series in high school baseball is a hard enough strain on a team's offense and pitching staff. It doesn't get any easier with a five-plus-hour road trip, downright scary thunderstorms, a postseason rival and the pressure of elimination.
Those were the obstacles Evans overcame last week, winning a 2-0 sweep in the first round of the Class AAAA state tournament. Lakeside also was on the road, and ended their season losing two games at Thomas County Central.
The Knights traveled to Leesburg, Ga., to face Lee County - the team that ended Evans' season last year in the state semifinals. The tables were turned Wednesday and Thursday when the Knights defeated the Trojans 2-0, 5-4 to advance to the second round of the state tournament.
"It always means a lot when you have an Evans and Lee County series," Evans coach Ricky Beale said. "It meant a lot to get some redemption."
Avenging last season's series loss wasn't as easy as a simple sweep. Thunderstorms ended the first game early and prevented the second game of the scheduled doubleheader from starting Wednesday.
Play picked up Thursday, and Lee County claimed all the momentum by taking an early 4-0 lead.
"It was four unearned runs. We made some mistakes and gave them the lead," Beale said.
Lee County held the lead through three innings, but Evans scored at least once in each of the final four innings to claim a 5-4 win. The Knights' bats were spurred by Pat Foster, who hit his first home run of the year on a solo shot in the fifth inning.
With the score tied heading into the final inning, senior Shawn Ward hit the game-winner to score the go-ahead run and end Lee County's season.
"It was great to see that big grin on his face," Beale said of Ward. "It was crucial for us to take that game, and Shawn came through for us."
For the Lakeside Panthers, the season ended on the road in the first round against top-seeded Thomas County Central.
The Panthers took Thomas County Central into extra innings in game one, but a Yellow Jacket two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth gave Thomas County Central the edge.
Lakeside responded with a 10-9 win in game two, but dropped the rubber match Saturday with a 10-3 loss.
The Panthers' season ended with an overall record of 15-13.
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