Raiders fall to Westfield Hornets in playoffs, draw curtain on 2017 season
Published 12:15 pm Saturday, May 13, 2017
By MICHAEL MURRAY
PERRY – The Southland Academy Raiders baseball team hit the road for Perry on May 5 to take on old rivals, the Westfield Hornets in the first round of the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) Class AAA playoffs.
The Raiders entered the doubleheader as the number-four seed in the tournament, but were eventually bested by the number-one seeded Hornets who dealt the Americus team a 7-5 defeat in the afternoon’s opener and put the series away with a 14-0 win in game two.
With this pair of losses, the Raiders drew the curtain on their 2017 season with an overall record of 7-10-1.
The Hornets returned to the diamond on May 12 to battle Trinity Christian – Sharpsburg. The results of these tilts were not available at press time.
In game one of the Raiders’ playoff appearance, the Hornets got off to a fiery start, scoring four runs in the initial inning.
Raider head coach, John Brady, recently spoke with the Times-Recorder to discuss the series, relaying a story about a Westfield slugger turning “lemons into lemonade”.
“In the second, they had a couple of runners on base with their stud player, Cole Brannen, up to bat,” Brady said. “I told Michael [Hudgens], who was pitching, ‘It’s ‘okay if you walk this guy, now.’ He threw a pitch out of the zone about mid-shin-high off the plate. The kid went down and golfed it out of the park for a three-run homerun… [Hudgens] did what he was supposed to do, but you have to tip your hat to that kid.”
Brady went on to say that this player will likely have the opportunity to be drafted into the major leagues soon. “He’s really, really good,” Brady said. “That’s what good ballplayers do…”
The Raiders broke their silence in the fourth inning when Will Hubbard led off with a single and was driven in by a Hunter McCain base hit.
The Raiders scored four runs of their own in the top of the fifth inning to even the score, 5-5.
Tyler Kennedy led off with a base hit, followed by walks from George Wall and Hubbard to load the bases.
Harrison Bell then connected on a double down the left field line, advancing to third on a Westfield error and allowing Kennedy, Wall, and Hubbard to come in.
The Raiders’ next batter, Luke Law, then reached on an error, which drove in Bell.
The Hornets scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth frame to take a 5-7 advantage that they would carefully guard through the remainder of the contest.
“It was a good ballgame,” Brady said. “I don’t think we made an error. It was tough because we were right there with a chance to win and couldn’t pull it out… We had two runners on in the top of the seventh and couldn’t get them in.”
Wall hit one for two in the tilt with a pair of walks and two runs scored. Hubbard batted one for two with two runs scored. Bell hit two for three with three RBIs and a double. McCain hit two for four with one RBI. Kennedy was two for three with one run scored for the Raiders.
Hudgens started on the mound for the Raiders, tossing four innings. Hudgens gave up four hits and struck out three batters before ceding the mound to Hubbard, who finished the final two innings. Hubbard gave up two hits, struck out two batters, and walked one.
“Michael [Hudgens] did a good job. Will [Hubbard] did a good job,” Brady added. “You just have to give credit where credit’s due. [Brannen] went down and got that ball and there’s nothing you can do about that… We played really well. We just didn’t have enough at the end.”
According to Brady, the final game of the afternoon was a really good match-up for the initial four innings.
“It got away from us in the fifth, sixth, and seventh,” he said. “It was 3-0 going into the fifth inning, and we made three errors that kind of opened the floodgates for them. We gave up six runs in the fifth and we gave up five more in the seventh.”
“We played 12 good innings of baseball on Friday, but the fifth and the seventh innings [of game two] were a little rough for us,” he continued.
McCain started the game for the Raiders, pitching four innings. McCain struck out one batter and gave up three earned runs. Luke Law threw one and one-third innings for the Raiders and Landon Law finished up the final one and one-third innings.
All of the Hornets’ runs scored in the fifth frame were unearned.
Hubbard hit one for three in the match. Luke Law hit one for two and drew a walk. Kennedy hit one for two.
Their pitcher was really good,” Brady added. “He was kind of sneaky, quick. We weren’t getting a good look at him. We took some bad swings and let some good balls go by. We didn’t have good at-bats in this game. We were over-matched a little bit… They have a good team. They have a lot of seniors. The two guys that started on the mound for them are both seniors. We threw a senior, a sophomore, and two freshmen. They’re a good bit older than we are and a little stronger, physically, in some areas but we fought them tooth and nail.”
“Other than winning, I can’t think of a way that I could be much happier with the way we played,” Brady concluded. “The first game was error-free… We made a couple in the fifth inning of that second game that hurt us but, other than that, the other 12 innings of the day… we played good baseball. We just got beaten.”
Brady went on to stress that the future of Raider baseball looks bright.
“We’re only losing two seniors this year… We have eight freshmen coming back,” he said. “A lot of them saw a lot of playing time… We have a good group of ninth-graders coming up next year. We have two sophomores, George [Wall] and Will [Hubbard] and they’ll be juniors next year.”
Bell and Stephen Barnes will be leading the team as seniors next season.
“We should be a little better,” he said. “I’m tickled at the way we played this year, overall. We ended up at .500 for the regular season. We made it to the playoffs with a really young team. We got better every week and we should keep getting better next year… We just have to be patient and let these kids grow up a little bit but, when they do, it’s going to be a nice team.”
He went on to express his thanks to the team’s graduating seniors. “I appreciate Michael [Hudgens] and Tyler [Kennedy] and all that they’ve done for us,” he said. “They’ve shown great leadership. We appreciate all of the parents and their support this year. We’re looking forward to great things from this group of guys very soon.”