Southland Raiders end regular season 8-7-1, earn spot in playoffs
Published 12:39 pm Saturday, April 29, 2017
By MICHAEL MURRAY
The Southland Academy Raiders wrapped up their 2017 regular baseball season in style recently, taking a pair of wins over the Brookwood Warriors (12-6 and 11-1) to earn themselves a spot in the GISA playoffs, scheduled to begin on May 5. As of this writing, the Raiders’ opponent in round one of the playoffs is yet-to-be determined.
The Southland crew carried this wave of excitement into their final regular season match-up, dealing a 9-2 blow to the Southwest Georgia Academy Warriors to improve their final record to 8-7-1.
The Raiders scored three runs in the initial inning of the team’s April 18 tilt against Brookwood. Southland then immediately gave up three runs in the bottom of the first.
Luke Law kicked off the Raiders’ early rally with a single. George Wall then reached on an error. Harrison Bell followed with a single, driving in Law. Michael Hudgens followed with a well-placed bunt to squeeze in Wall, who had advanced to third base on a wild pitch. Bell then scored on a Tyler Kennedy ground out.
In the second inning, Clay Owens reached first base on an error and proceeded to steal second. He was driven in on a Law base hit, giving the Raiders a 4-3 advantage early in the test.
In the bottom of the third frame, the Warriors sparked a rally to add three runs to their tally and the Raiders answered by tacking on another run in the top of the fourth.
Will Hubbard opened the frame, drawing a walk. Clay Owens followed with a single and Hubbard exploited a Brookwood error to complete his round trip.
Entering the sixth frame down by one run, the Raiders kicked off another rally to take the lead for good. Barnes opened with a walk, followed by singles from Owens and Law to load the bases. The following batter drew a walk to plate Barnes.
In the top of the seventh, the Raiders continued to pull away. Kennedy opened with a walk and Barnes then sacrificed him to second base. Hubbard, Owens, Law, Wall, and Bell each nailed consecutive singles. Hunter McCain followed by reaching on an error, completing the Raiders’ five-run inning.
The Raiders held off the Warriors’ attack in the bottom of the seventh frame to clinch the six-run victory.
Bell opened on the mound for the Raiders, pitching one inning before turning over hurling duties to McCain, who threw the next six stanzas.
McCain dispatched three batters, walked two, and gave up three hits. All of the runs that the Warriors scored in the third inning were unearned. “We had one bad inning, there,” said Raider head coach, John Brady, after the game. “We played really well after that.”
At the plate, Law hit four for five with two RBIs, one stolen base, and two runs scored.
Bell hit three for five with three RBIs. Owens hit three for four with a couple of stolen bases and three runs scored. “He had a good day,” Brady said. Hubbard contributed one RBI on his only hit of the game, but managed to cross the plate twice.
“It was a good day for us,” said Brady. “That was a big win that we needed to keep us alive for the playoffs.”
With only one more game standing between the Raiders and a berth in the playoffs, the Raiders returned to their home field on April 21 to take on Brookwood once more for their final region game of the regular season.
The Raiders scored two runs in the initial inning after Law was hit by a pitch and Wall followed with a walk. With Bell in the batter’s box, Law was able to come in on an error. McCain then added a base hit to drive in the second run.
The Warriors scored one earned run in the top of the third and the Raiders turned it up to 11 in the bottom half of the fame.
Bell opened with a double, followed by a single off of McCain’s bat. McCain then stole second and Hudgens pushed him to third with a ground out. Kennedy, Barnes, Hubbard, and Owens followed with base hits to add five runs to the Raiders’ total.”
“It was a good inning,” Brady said.
In the ensuing fourth frame, the Raiders continued their offensive push when Wall led off with a walk, McCain reached on an error, and Hudgens followed up with a single to bring Wall home. Kennedy drove in a run on a fielder’s choice. Barnes and Hudgens followed by taking advantage of more Warrior errors to keep the momentum up.
In the bottom of the fifth, Law drew a walk and stole second base. Bell then nailed a double to bring in Law and give the Raiders the 10-point walk-off win.
“That was a big-time, great win for us,” Brady said. “We needed it to get that playoff spot. It was really exciting.”
Hudgens pitched all five innings, giving up three hits and sending three batters back to the dugout.
“I’m really proud of these guys. We’re really young and I was hoping that we could get these guys into the playoffs to get that experience. That will do us good down the road… I’m thrilled for these guys… I’m not sure I could be any prouder. They’ve worked hard…”
The Raiders celebrated Senior Day on April 21 as well, honoring 12-th graders, Hudgens and Tyler Harrell.
“I’d like to say that I appreciate those guys,” Brady said. “They’re great teammates and great leaders… I appreciate everything that they’ve done for us. They are both tremendous young men. We’re going to miss them.”
The Raiders have eight freshmen on their roster out of 14 players.