Southland baseball takes down Wilcox, Westfield; falls to Deerfield
Published 4:13 pm Saturday, April 8, 2017
By MICHAEL MURRAY
The Southland Academy Raiders took a pair of significant wins this past weekend over Wilcox County and Westfield School before returning to Region 3-IAAA competition with two games against the Deerfield-Windsor Knights.
The Raiders opened their stint on March 31, traveling to Rochelle to deal a 14-1 blow to the Wilcox County Patriots. The following day, the Raiders returned to their home field to take on the Westfield Hornets, sparking a sixth-inning comeback rally that led the Americus team to a 4-3 win.
The Raiders hit the field again on April 4, hosting the Deerfield-Windsor Knights. The Knights pulled ahead early and the Raiders were unable to overcome the visitors’ offensive onslaught, eventually suffering a 17-2 defeat.
Two days later, the Raiders looked to avenge their defeat with another test of their skills against Deerfield-Windsor in Albany. Southland’s efforts were thwarted once more as the Knights rode the momentum of their previous win to an 11-3 victory.
Following this series, the Raiders enjoy a 4-6-1 overall record on the 2017 season.
In the March 31 tilt in Rochelle, Wilcox County took an early lead, plating their sole run of the game in the second frame. The Raiders then went on a scoring spree, tacking on one run in the third inning, two in the fourth, five in the fifth, and six in the sixth inning to eventually walk away with the 13-point win in six innings.
“That was a big win for us,” Raider head coach, John Brady, told the Times-Recorder. “Wilcox is my alma mater, so it was exciting to go there and play them… It was a good all-around day for us… It was a good win, even though it looked a little lopsided.”
Michael Hudgens went the distance for the Raiders on the hill, pitching all six frames. Hudgens struck out five batters, gave up six hits, and didn’t walk a single competitor.
Tyler Kennedy hit two for four for the Raiders. George Wall went one for three with a sacrifice, an RBI, and a run scored. Bell hit one for three with two runs scored and a walk. Hudgens hit two for three with three runs scored.
Luke Henson hit a double on his sole at-bat of the game. Hunter McCain hit two for four with two RBIs, a double, a sacrifice, and two runs scored. “[McCain] had a good day,” said Brady.
Will Hubbard collected one hit on his two at-bats, contributing one RBI, a sacrifice, a walk, and a stolen base.
Clay Owens went two for three with a stolen base, a sacrifice, and a run scored.
The following afternoon, the Raiders took on the Westfield Hornets in Americus.
The Raiders were down 3-0 until the top of the sixth inning, when the hosts sparked a rally to come back and take a 4-3 lead.
The Raiders scored all four of their runs in the sixth frame with a rally kicked off when George Wall reached first base on an error. Bell followed with a single to push Wall to second. Tyler Harrell then laid down a bunt, trying to advance these two runners and the Raiders exploited a Westfield throwing error to bring in Wall.
Hunter McCain followed with a single to drive in Bell. Luke Law followed with a base hit to complete Harrell’s and McCain’s round trips.
“Something I’m really proud of is that, with a one-run lead, [the Hornets] were at the top of their [batting] order in the top of the seventh with a kid that’s likely one of the best players in the state, regardless of classification… They led off the inning with him at the plate,” Brady said, describing the tense situation the Raiders faced. “We elected to pitch to him and see what would happen. We got him out, so that was how we started the seventh. We walked the next two guys… With one out, the go-ahead run was on base with the middle of their order coming up… guys that can really hit the ball… We were able to hang on and get out of it… All three outs in the seventh were really, really nice plays. Seeing us overcome that adversity and be able to hang on with the tying run 90 feet away… It was good for our guys to experience that and figure out how to get over that hump, which has been a stumbling block for us a couple of times this year… being able to put that fire out when it starts.”
McCain tossed the first three innings for the Raiders, giving up three hits along the way. McCain struck out four batters, walked two, and allowed one earned run.
Hubbard followed up, pitching two innings, giving up three hits, and striking out three batters. Hubbard walked two batters and allowed two earned runs.
Bell completed the match for the Raiders on the mound, dispatching one batter, striking out one, and giving up one hit. Bell is credited with the win for the Raiders.
Bell hit one for three in the match, crossing the plate once. McCain hit one for one with a pair of walks and two RBIs contributed to the win. Law hit one for two with two RBIs. Hubbard and Clay Owens each connected on one hit for the Raiders.
Westfield’s Cole Brannon opened the game’s scoring with a homerun in the third frame. The Hornets connected on a series of doubles in the fourth stanza that netted the hosts two more runs.
“Harrison [Bell] made some good pitches when we needed them in that last inning… It was good for us. It was a good win. I was proud of them…,” Brady added. “Will [Hubbard] threw some really nice pitches in the fifth inning… Hunter made a heck of a play from shortstop to get that first out in the seventh and Will [Hubbard], at second base, and Stephen Barnes, at first, both made really nice plays to finish the game up.”
When the Raiders returned to their home field to continue region competition against the Knights, the home team fell into a hole early and were unable to claw their way out of it, despite loading the bases twice in the three-inning tilt.
After Southland took the tough 17-2 loss, Brady stated, “It was a rough one. They have a good team and we didn’t compete like I had hoped we would… We’ve done a great job this year. And played with a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm. We didn’t see a lot of that on Tuesday.”
Details of the Raiders’ April 6 rematch with Deerfield-Windsor were not available at press time, though Brady did tell the Times-Recorder that the Southland crew played a much better game that time around.
“From the first day we practiced until now, we’ve gotten a little better each week. We have some big region games coming up and we’re going to try to get in the playoffs. We have to keep our nose to the grindstone. We just have to keep focusing one day at a time, trying to get better,” Brady concluded.
The Raiders will take a short break before traveling to Cordele on April 10 to battle Crisp Academy.
The Southland squad will return to their home court the following afternoon to face the Tiftarea Panthers.