Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local Sports

May 29, 2014

Raiders title hopes spoiled by defending champs in Final Four

Tattnall pitching cools Southland’s hot bats in shutout

MACON — Tattnall Square Academy is no stranger to success in the sport of baseball. In 2012 and 2013, the Trojans ended their season by hoisting the GISA Class AAA State Championship trophy. Southland Academy’s Raider baseball team was hoping to end that title run on Saturday on the Trojans’ home field, but after dropping the opening contest 13-0, the Raiders saw their tremendous 2014 season come to an end with an 11-0 loss in the second game.

As the series began, Southland found themselves in a tough spot right off the bat. After being retired in order by Tattnall ace Taylor Ferringer in the top of the first inning, the Raiders fell behind 5-0 in the bottom of the frame. Southland nearly escaped the opening inning with just three runs allowed, but a dropped third strike that was thrown over first baseman Hunter Weldon’s head with two outs allowed Tattnall to add two more unearned runs to their total.

The Raiders got their first hit in the top of the second inning on a one out single by Weldon, but Tattnall’s good fortune continued as they induced a ground ball to start a double play and end the frame.

Tattnall began to add on to their margin in the bottom of the third thanks to an RBI double by Ian Herndon and an RBI single by Cole Gaylord. After forcing another double play in the top of the fourth inning, the Trojans put the finishing touches on the win in the bottom of the fourth with six hits and six runs to extend their lead to 13-0.

Despite a frozen-rope single by senior Ford Roach in the top of the fifth inning, Southland could not avoid the ten-run mercy rule, and the game ended with the Trojans claiming a victory by the same 13-0 score.

Over their five innings, Southland collected just three hits. Geoffrey McDonald earned his way into the hit column with a single in the top of the third, joining Weldon and Roach. For Tattnall, Blake Simmons led the way with three hits, and Gaylord had three RBIs. Herndon, Dakota Long, and Cory Bartholomew all had two RBIs apiece.

On the mound, McDonald was took the loss after starting the game on the hill for Southland. Allen Gleeson and Hoyt Gurley also made appearances for the Raiders on the bump. For Tattnall, Ferringer went all five innings and struck out seven batters to earn the win.

In game two, Tattnall took over the role as the visiting team, and once again they struck early against the Raiders. Thanks to a triple by Nick DiPonzio and a sacrifice fly by Simmons, the Trojans were able to put the first run of the game on the board in the top of the first.

Tattnall doubled their lead with another sacrifice fly in the top of the second inning, but the big damage came the following inning for the Trojans. In the top of the third, Tattnall scored three runs thanks to a Southland error and a passed ball to extend their lead to 5-0.

The Trojans doubled up their score again in the top of the fifth inning to put their lead past the 10-run advantage once again. RBI singles from DiPonzio, Simmons and Long made the score 9-0, and Parker Faircloth put the finishing touches on the series-clinching win with a two-RBI double to make the Tattnall lead 11-0. Bartholomew ended the game on the mound for the Trojans by retiring Southland in order in the top of the fifth inning.

In Southland’s final game of the year, Weldon led the Raiders with two hits in two trips to the plate. Reed Dillard had the only other hit for Southland in the heart-breaking loss. On the day, Weldon collected half of Southland’s six total hits with one in the first and two in the second game.

Despite a tough ending to the season, Southland still had tremendous year in 2014. The Raiders won two playoff series’ including their first series at home in several years against Bulloch Academy. Southland advanced to the Final Four for the first time since 2007, and they return a lot of talent next season.

“It was an awesome year and we had a good time with it,” said Southland head coach John Brady. “They got a lot of encouragement from around town and there was a lot of exposure for our program and school.”

There is little doubt that seniors Allen Gleeson, Adam Shutters, Jon Adkins, and Ford Roach will definitely be missed in Southland’s lineup next year, according to Brady.

“Those guys are great leaders,” he said. “Jon and Adam were voted as team capitans by their teammates, so that says all you need to know about them. Ford and Allen also got a lot of votes, and all four of them worked hard, showed up every day, knew their roles, and most importantly they played really well this season. I couldn’t ask for a better group.”

With a solid core of leadership and talent returning, the Raiders should be right in the thick of the hunt for a state championship once again in 2015, despite playing in a new-look Class AAA next season.

“It is going to be very tough with the new seven-team region alignment next year,” Brady said. “We are going to work hard and make another run at it next year though. I do want to tip my cap to Tattnall. They have a great team, and we didn’t play particularly well, but that had a lot to do with how talented they are.”

Brady said that he appreciates all of the support from the Raider fans, especially on their long road trips.

“We had great turnouts wherever we played, whether it was at home or on the road. Even at Loganville and Tattnall we had a lot of people there. I appreciate that very much, and I know that our players did too.”

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