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Raiders score three runs in bottom sixth to defeat Westfield

AMERICUS – With their season-opening 11-7 victory over Crisp County in Cordele last Saturday, the Southland Academy Raider baseball team (SAR) came into Tuesday’s home opener against Westfield (WS) hoping to extend its winning streak and start the season off at 2-0. After taking a 3-0 lead early, they gave up two runs in the fourth and three in the fifth to fall behind 5-3 going into the sixth inning. However, SAR took advantage of a walk, two errors, a hit batsman and a single by Matthew Saint to score three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. SAR senior relief pitcher Owen Exley would then shut down the Hornets in the top of the seventh to secure the 6-5 come-from-behind victory for the Raiders on Tuesday, March 9, a the Southland Academy Baseball Complex.

While the Raiders did what they needed to do to earn the victory, they got a lot of help from WS as the Hornets shot themselves in the foot with six errors on the day.

The Raiders were only able to muster three hits on the day against WS pitching. In addition to Saint’s key hit in the bottom of the sixth, Will Godwin went 1 for 3 with a single and a run scored and Henry Johnson went 1 for 3 with a single.

Southland Academy’s Will Godwin gets his lead off first base. Godwin singled to lead off the bottom of the second inning, which led to the Raiders taking an early 3-0 lead.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

The Raiders got off to a great start in the bottom of the first, thanks to three errors by the Hornets. Nathan Duke and Henry Johnson both reached on an error to start things off. Then Exley hit a ground ball that was booted by the WS shortstop, allowing Duke to score and giving the Raiders a 1-0 lead.

With two outs and runners on first and second in the bottom of the second, Johnson got his only hit of the game on a ground ball into right field, which loaded the bases for Exley. Once again, Exley put the ball in play, but two more runs would score on an error by the Hornets.

However, the Hornets would fight their way back into the game. In the top of the third, Grey Brannen led off with a single off SAR starting pitcher Chase Ledger. After Brannen advanced to second on a passed ball, Cole Miller drove in Brannen on an RBI single to put the Hornets on the board. Jake Canterbury then drove in the Hornets’ second run of the game on an RBI single and WS was right back in it, trailing 3-2.

With the exception of Saint drawing a one-out walk, the Raiders went quietly in the bottom of the fourth, giving the Hornets the opportunity to tie or take the lead in the fifth. With two runners on and no outs in the top of the fifth inning, Rhodes Ham scored from third on an error and Gavin Vining scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch. Just like that, the Hornets were ahead 4-3. After Miller reached on a dropped third strike, WS added to its lead when Canterbury tripled to centerfield, scoring Miller and giving the Hornets a 5-3 lead.

Fortunately for the Raiders, that would be the final run of the game scored by WS.

In the bottom of the sixth, James Griffin reached on an error to lead things off. Then Perry Usher drew a walk, putting runners on first and second with no outs.

Southland Academy ‘s Nathan Duke scores the first run of the game against Westfield.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Godwin tried to lay down a sacrifice bunt, but he bunted it right to the WS catcher and was unable to move the runners over. However, Matthew Saint came up with a single to load the bases for Hudson Collins. With still only one out, Collins hit a fly ball that was not handled properly by the WS right fielder and two runs scored to tie the game at 5-5.

At this point, Saint was at third and Collins was at second, but the Hornets decided to intentionally walk Duke to pitch to Henry Johnson. However, the plan backfired as Johnson was hit by a pitch. Saint scored on the play to give the Raiders a 6-5 lead.

Exley, who had come on in relief of Ledger in the fifth inning, struck out both Brannen and Miller in the top of the seventh. He walked Canterbury, but was able to get Trae Hardy to ground out for the final out of the game.

Southland Academy’s James Griffin lays down a bunt in the Raiders’ game against Westfield. Griffin scored one run in the ball game.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Ledger had a solid outing for the Raiders. In four innings of work, he gave up two runs on six hits, walked one and struck out four WS batters. Exley was dominant in relief. In just three innings of work, he gave up two runs on one hit, walked two and struck out seven.

Canterbury led the Hornets’ offense by going 2 for 3 with a triple and two RBIs and Miller went 2 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored.

Canterbury, who started on the mound for WS, gave up five runs on two hits, walked two and struck out six batters in five innings of work.

With the win, the Raiders improve to 2-0 on the season, while the Hornets fall to 1-4.

The Raiders will be off for the remainder of the week and will travel to Dublin, GA on Monday, March 15, to take on Trinity Christian. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.