Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local Sports

May 3, 2014

Wildcats drop playoff opener in nine innings, take game two 10-0 to force third game

ELLAVILLE — As the number one team in the GHSA Class A Public power rankings, the Schley County Wildcats had high expectations as they began their 2014 playoff run against Trion in Ellaville on Friday night. Despite a rocky start in their 4-3 opening game loss, the Wildcats got their postseason on the right track with a five inning, 10-0 shutout of Trion in the second game to force a deciding game three.

Fans who paid the $7 entry fee on Friday night got their money’s worth and more as a pitcher’s duel broke out in the first contest. Over the first three innings, Schley County ace Brett Usry and Trion’s Reece Roach mowed through their opposing batters with very little trouble.

The Bulldogs of Trion finally opened the scoring in the top of the fourth inning. Following a leadoff single by Bradley Womack and a walk by Jackson Bowers, each runner moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. A deep sacrifice fly ball to left field by Colton Teems brought home Womack, and the Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth.

Schley County quickly answered in the bottom of the frame thanks to some crafty running on the base-paths. Senior outfielder Matt Corbin led off the inning by reaching on an error, and he quickly stole second base to put a runner in scoring position for the ‘Cats. An opposite field ground-out by Logan Scofield moved Corbin to third base, and Knox Theus followed with a walk to put runners on the corners. Thanks to a botched pick-off attempt by the Bulldogs, Corbin was able to scamper home and tie the game at 1-1.

The ‘Cats threatened again in the bottom of the fifth after getting a double by Usry and a single by Michael Leeder to lead off the inning. Roach buckled down on the mound, however, forcing three pop-outs to end the inning and Schley County threat.

With the game still knotted-up at 1-1 at the end of the seventh inning, the teams headed into extras with a lot on the line. Following a scoreless eighth inning, the game was finally decided in an exciting ninth inning by the narrowest of margins.

Trion third baseman Brandon Russell got the Bulldogs started with a single down the third base line, and back-to-back hit by pitches by Schley County reliever Chase Patrick loaded the bases. Russell put the Bulldogs on top by scoring on a passed ball, but the big play came after Patrick retired two batters to nearly escape the jam.

With two outs Trion’s designated hitter, Brian Wilson, smoked an opposite field line drive to right field. Schley County right fielder Josh Hutchens sprinted in and made an incredible diving attempt, but the ball went just off his glove allowing two Bulldog runners to score and extend their lead to 4-1.

The bottom of the ninth inning also saw a big rally from the ‘Cats. Theus led off with a single, and Hutchens moved up the catcher’s courtesy runner with a sacrifice bunt. Usry then walked, and Leeder grounded back to the pitcher, who wheeled and threw to second base. The Trion short stop dropped the ball, however, and the table was set for the ‘Cats with just one out.

Wilson, who was now on the mound in relief of Roach for the Bulldogs, was able to retire Sellars to get the second out of the inning. In a long battle, Ryan Ragsdale came through for Schley County with a 3-2, two-out line drive to third base that was too hot for the Trion corner man. Ragsdale’s single brought in two runs and cut the lead to just 4-3.

Corbin was then hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Wilson was able to preserve the win by forcing Chase Patrick to fly out to short stop. As the catch was made, Schley County found themselves in a 0-1 hole in the best-of-three series against the No. 16 Bulldogs.

In his seven innings of work, Usry fanned 11 Trion batters and allowed just two hits. Patrick surrendered three earned runs in relief, and Leeder faced one batter and struck him out in the ninth.

With the potential of ending their season with a loss, Schley County stepped up to the plate with their hair on fire in the second game against the Bulldogs. With Blake Howell dealing a gem on the hill, Schley County’s offense gave him all the run support he needed to bring home a five inning, 10-0 mercy rule-shortened victory and keep their season alive for at least one more day.

As the visiting team, Schley got the first crack at scoring in the top of the first inning. The Wildcats loaded the bases with a singles by Usry and Leeder, and a walk by Ragsdale. Schley County then went up by one as Corbin took a pitch off his arm to earn a free pass and an RBI.

Howell worked a scoreless frame in the bottom of the first, and in the top of the second the ‘Cats added on to their score even more. Theus led of the frame by being hit with a pitch, and a prefect bunt by Hutchens gave the Wildcats two runners. A walk to Usry loaded the bases, and Leeder put Schley County up big with a two-RBI double to stretch the lead to 3-0.

Sellars and Ragsdale did their job with consecutive RBI ground-outs to the right side, scoring Usry and Leeder to extend the lead to 5-0. The Wildcats weren’t done with their offensive onslaught just yet though.

A scoreless third inning was followed by offensive fireworks from the ‘Cats in  the fourth. With two runners on, Sellars blasted a towering home run over the left field fence to put his team up 8-0. Theus then made the score 9-0 with an RBI single to score Ryan Ragsdale, and courtesy runner Reid Ragsdale scored on a throw to second to make the lead 10-0.

With a huge lead, Howell gave way to Leeder on the mound, and Leeder turned in another terrific outing to slam the door on any Trion comeback attempt. In the bottom of the fourth, Leeder struck out two batters, and with a chance to end the game early in the fifth, the sophomore flame thrower struck out the side  to finish the Bulldogs.

Although the game will take place after publication time on Saturday, the Wildcats and Bulldogs will meet on the diamond at Wildcat park to decide who will advance to the second round of the playoffs. Be sure to check our website and Facebook page to see how the ‘Cats do in the deciding game, and see the Friday edition of our sports section for the complete story.

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