Wildcats wrap up regular season with defeat of Hawkinsville, look to defend state title
Published 10:37 am Wednesday, April 27, 2016
By MICHAEL MURRAY
ELLAVILLE – Following a second-inning burst on April 19 that led the Schley County Wildcats baseball team to an 8-2 victory over the St. Anne-Pacelli Vikings, the Wildcats wrapped up their regular-season competition on April 25 with another 8-2 thrashing of the Hawkinsville Red Devils.
With the pair of victories, the Wildcats closed the curtain on the regular season with an overall record of 22-2, having only fallen to non-region opponents, the AAAAAA Lee County Trojans and the AAAAA Hardaway Hawks. The Wildcats completed 4-A competition undefeated after 12 contests.
With their impressive record, the Wildcats have earned the number-one spot in the Class A state playoffs, a strong position from which the team can defend their 2015 championship title. The state playoffs are scheduled to begin on April 29, with the Wildcats facing Georgia Military College in Ellaville.
On April 19, when the Wildcats prepared to face St. Anne-Pacelli, the team was already well on their way to the state playoffs, having already cinched the number-one spot in region 4-A.
The ‘Cats pulled ahead early in the game, bringing in a total of six runs (more than enough to cinch the victory) in the match’s second frame before adding a pair of insurance runs in the top of the third. The Vikings made their stand in the final frame, putting two runs on the board before the game concluded with the ‘Cats on the winning side of the 8-2 decision.
Schley trotted out three pitchers in the contest, Blake Howell, Michael Leeder, and Brett Usry. Howell tossed three innings, with Leeder and Usry splitting the remaining four. Howell struck out four batters during his time on the hill before Usry stepped up to dispatch three.
Schley’s batters were led by Josh Hutchens and Usry, who each contributed a trio of hits to the victory. Reid Ragsdale followed close behind with two. As a team, the Wildcats connected on 14 total hits in the match.
Leeder brought in three RBIs for the ‘Cats while Hutchens added one.
For their final match-up of the regular season, the Wildcats continued in similar fashion, posting two runs in the third frame before breaking out in the sixth to add a half-dozen more and earn the 8-2 win.
Schley threatened in the first stanza, but at the end of the inning the ‘Cats left three runners stranded on base as they surrendered plate. Each team failed to score in the second as well.
The top of the third inning was highlighted by an exciting unassisted double play by Howell to shut down Hawkinsville’s progress after only three at-bats.
In addition to pitching the initial three innings, Usry got the ball rolling for the ‘Cats as he opened the third frame by drawing a walk. Clint Sellars then picked up his bat and slammed a double, giving Usry time to complete his round-trip and put Schley up by one run. Howell followed with a double of his own to plate Sellars and leave the Wildcats with a 2-0 advantage when they returned to the field.
At this point, the Wildcats called Howell to the mound to relieve Usry. The ‘Cats made short work of their foes at the plate, gaining two strike-outs and running down a batter as he attempted to steal third base.
With Schley back at the plate, the Red Devils responded in kind, deftly earning the right to return to the dugout after facing only four batters.
Neither team saw the chance to gain any ground in the fifth inning or the top of the sixth before the Cats hit their stride in the bottom of the inning. Howell opened with a walk and stole second before Wade Law took one for the team, being pegged by an errant pitch. With two runners on base, the Wildcats’ bats heated up, with Ragsdale exploiting a Red Devil error to add a double and push in Howell. Hutchens followed with a single that brought in Camron Vanlerberghe (pinch-running for Law). Leeder then offered a strategically-placed bunt, allowing Ragsdale to come in before Usry took a plunk to load the bases. A single to left-field off the bat of Chase Patrick gave Hutchens and Leeder plenty of time to come in and, with Usry on third base, a balk on the part of Hawkinsville’s pitcher surrendered the final run of the game.
Wrapping up the final inning, Patrick took the mound as the Red Devils made a hard, offensive push in the seventh inning that netted the team two runs, enough to avoid a shutout, but not enough to turn the tide of the game.
Howell struck out four batters for the Wildcats during his three innings on the mound. Usry did work for three innings as well, striking out a pair of batters.
Sellars led the ‘Cats from the plate, connecting on three hits to bring in a trio of RBIs.
The Wildcats collected seven total hits in the contest and committed no errors.