Wildcats punch ticket to Elite-Eight round of playoffs with wins over Trion
Published 2:44 pm Wednesday, May 10, 2017
By MICHAEL MURRAY
ELLAVILLE – The Schley County Wildcats baseball team grabbed a pair of hard-earned victories over the visiting Trion Bulldogs in the second round of the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Class A state baseball playoffs on May 6 at Wildcat Stadium in Ellaville. This meeting marked the third time in the past four years that the Bulldogs have traveled to Ellaville to take on the Wildcats in the playoffs.
As the number-one ranked Class-A team in the state according to the recently-released GHSA power rankings, the Wildcats earned a bye in the first round of the playoffs. The Trion squad earned their spot in the round two of the playoffs with a 10-0 shutout of Terrell County the previous week.
After a pair of rain delays that postponed the doubleheader, the Wildcats came out fighting in the tilts, initially taking a 5-1 victory in the day’s opener before scrapping their way back from an early deficit in extra innings to take an 11-3 win in game two and put the series away.
The Wildcats now progress to the Elite-Eight round of the tournament, in which they will host the Taylor County Vikings on May 10, beginning at 4:00 on their home field. The “if” game is scheduled for May 11 at 2:00 if necessary.
With their two defeats of the Bulldogs, the Wildcats improve their impressive overall season record to 28-2 and bring themselves one step closer to repeating their 2015 season championship-winning performance.
The ‘Cats got off to a strong start in game one of the Sweet 16 round of the playoffs.
The Bulldogs opened the game with a hit by Evan Walker, followed by a sacrifice bunt to put a runner within striking distance. The third batter in Trion’s lineup managed to draw a walk from Schley pitcher, Will Barry, but Barry quickly neutralized the threat with back-to-back strikeouts.
When the Wildcats took the dugout, Reid Ragsdale opened by drawing a walk of his own and proceeded to show off his speed as he stole second base. Chase Patrick then stepped up to the plate to smash a two-RBI homerun over the left field fence, giving the Schley crew a 2-0 edge early in the match.
Schley got runners to second and third base later in the inning, but couldn’t push any more runs across.
The scoreboard went quiet until the top of the fourth inning thanks, in part, to a long throw from centerfielder, Reid Ragsdale who, in the second inning, found catcher, Jarrod Wall’s glove in the nick of time to dispatch a Trion runner headed for home plate and keep the visitors off the board a little longer.
In the top of the fourth, the Bulldogs finally broke their silence when a Trion runner exploited a Wildcat throwing error to make his way to home plate from second base and cut the hosts’ lead in half.
Schley loaded the bases again in the fourth inning, but couldn’t push a run across.
The visitors’ excitement wouldn’t last long, however, as the Wildcats opened the bottom of the fifth frame with a free base when Ragsdale was plunked by an errant pitch. This time around, it was Barry’s turn to put the pressure on the Bulldogs as he belted a homerun over the centerfield fence. Barry’s base-clearer left the Wildcats up 4-1, where the score would stay until the bottom of the sixth.
Cameron Belcher was hit by a pitch as well to kick off the Wildcats’ half of the sixth inning. Jordan Hall and Trent Bivins followed with singles to load the bases before Ragsdale laid down a sacrifice grounder to allow designated runner, Garrett Peavy, to come in and expand the Wildcats’ advantage to 5-1, where it would stay until the end of the game.
Barry spent six innings on the mound for the Wildcats, sending seven batters back to the dugout. Clint Sellars tossed the final inning for the Wildcats.
Patrick and Barry each batted in two runners and Ragsdale contributed the final RBI.
Hall and Barry each connected on a pair of hits for the Wildcats.
Trion lefty, Blaine Woody, handled duties on the hill for six innings for the Bulldogs, striking out three batters.
In total the Wildcats collected seven hits in the game while holding the Bulldogs to only six.
Following the win, Wildcat head coach, Chuck Cheek, told the Times-Recorder, “I can’t say enough about how Will [Barry] pitched. He got out of a rough patch there in the first and really had the game in control the rest of the way. I thought he had a chance to finish it, but he just missed, apparently, with a couple of two-strike pitches in the last inning. They got a couple of guys on and we had to go to Clint [Sellars] to finish up and he did a great job shutting the door.”
“Chase [Patrick’s] blast in the first inning was huge,” Cheek continued. “It set the tone early and let Will [Barry] relax a little on the mound with an early lead. We could have hit it a little better, but we got enough and Barry made sure they didn’t get back in it.”
The Bulldogs got the jump on the Wildcats early in the second game of the afternoon, plating three runners in the bottom of the first inning in a pitching duel that Cheek described as “a showdown of two of the best pitchers in Class-A (Schley’s Barry and Trion ace, Walker). The Wildcats threatened in the initial frame, but the team wasn’t able to score.
The visitors then tightened up their defenses in an attempt to hold off the Wildcats’ attack.
This strategy worked for the Bulldogs until the top of the fourth frame when Chance Holloman kicked off a rally with a single and was pushed to second on a sacrifice off of Hall’s bat. Cameron Vanlerberghe followed by belting a double up the middle to complete Holloman’s round trip before Ragsdale allowed Vanlerberghe to come home with a double of his own.
After a rough first inning, the Wildcats didn’t let Trion threaten very much for the remainder of the contest. Schley allowed only two runners on base between the second and seventh innings, giving the Wildcats time to make the comeback.
In the top of the seventh, the Wildcats’ time was running out as the teams continued to duke it out.
Barry led off with a double off the top of the fence in left center. With one out on the board, Barry tagged up on a deep fly ball off of Law’s bat to advance to third base. With one strike on the next batter and two outs, Barry took off from third base on a passed ball and scrambled to home plate to the roar of the home crowd.
With the score tied 3-3 at the end of seven frames, the game was forced into extra innings.
Each team looked for an opening in both the eighth and ninth stanzas, but both defenses stubbornly refused to give up any ground.
Patrick struck out leadoff hitter, Walker, to start the eighth inning before an infield single and an error put runners at second and third. The Schley coaching staff then intentionally walked Trion heavy-hitter, Jackson Bowers, to load the bases and set up a force out. Railey hit a hard grounder to first, and Wade Law made an expert play, getting the lead out at the plate. The visitors’ rally soon died, though, as a pop up landed safely in Vanlerberghes’ glove at second base for the third out in the inning.
The duel continued into the ninth frame. With two outs in the ninth, Patrick had to leave the game due to the GHSA pitch count rules. He was replaced by sophomore, Ashton Goodin. Goodin gave up a single, but Wall’s throw to second nailed the would-be base stealer to end the frame.
In the top of the tenth inning, however, the Wildcats managed to get a rally going that would end up netting the team a total of eight runs and seal the 11-3 win for the hosts.
Belcher led off with a double off the left field fence and was replaced by pinch runner, Peavy. Goodin then hit a hard grounder to third, but the defender couldn’t come up with the ball and Goodin reached first base safely. Hall then advanced the runners to second and third with a grounder to the right side and Vanlerberghe came up in one of his biggest at-bats as a Wildcat.
The junior second baseman rifled a fast ball through the middle to drive in both Peavy and Goodin and give Schley their first lead of the game. After Ragsdale drew a walk, Patrick singled to left field to load the bases. Barry then hit an RBI single to put Schley up 6-3.
A bases-loaded walk to Sellars forced in a run and brought the score to 7-3. After a pop up in foul territory, Belcher came through again with his second double of the inning; a shot down the right field line that scored Patrick and Barry and put the Cats up by six runs. Goodin and Hall then followed with RBI singles to give Schley the 11-3 lead.
Patrick did eight and two-thirds’ innings worth of work pitching for the Wildcats before ceding the mound to Goodin. Sellars wrapped up the final stanza.
Patrick put away 10 batters and Sellars struck out two.
Barry led the Wildcats from the plate, connecting on four hits, followed closely by Belcher and Vanlerberghe, who scattered three hits apiece. Every Wildcat starter recorded a hit in the contest.
Vanlerberghe brought in three runners, followed by Belcher with two RBIs and Ragsdale with one. In total, the Wildcats scattered 17 hits in their comeback win while holding the Bulldogs to only seven.
Following the win, Cheek told the Times-Recorder, “What a game. Obviously, it was a really rough start there in the first inning, but we’re proud of how the guys battled back. Baseball’s a crazy game. There isn’t a clock, so until that last out is made there’s always a chance. Will [Barry] got a great read on a dirt ball at the plate and tied it up with two outs in the seventh inning. He was on fire all day at the plate. Even the few balls he got out on he tagged pretty well. We’re so proud of Belcher and [Vanlerberghe]. They came through late for us with some absolutely huge hits. Once we got the ball rolling, it seemed like everybody was getting a hit there…
Chase was brilliant after the first. They are a great team and he really shut them down and gave us a chance to get back in it. I’m proud of the guys.”
“We’re going to have a tough series in the next round as Taylor comes to town,” Cheek continued. “This will be our third time playing them this year. That’s always tough… We need all of Wildcat Nation there to help us get through this series.”