Wildcats’ season comes to an end with loss to ECI in Final Four

Published 5:50 pm Thursday, May 18, 2023

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AMERICUS – The Schley County Wildcats (SCHS) were two more wins away from competing for their second state championship in school history, but losses to Emmanuel County Institute (ECI) by scores of 6-2 and 5-3 resulted in the elimination of SCHS in the GHSA Class A Division 2 Final Four at Wildcat Park on Wednesday afternoon, May 17.

“I’m just really proud of the guys and my coaches,” SCHS Head Coach Chuck Cheek said. “ECI was really good. We knew that going in and that we’d have to play at our best. We didn’t do that defensively in Game 1 and that bit us. We’ve been playing great defense the second half of the year and it’s disappointing to have mistakes in big games like this. Their shortstop (Bryce Kearson) is a player. He saved several runs for them on plays he would lay out for and come up and throw a dart to first. As tight as Game 2 was, I think he was the biggest difference. I’m proud of the guys for how they competed. That last series with Wilcox was so intense and emotional and I think it took a little out of us. I hate to lose our seniors, but I’m really proud of Owen Lamb and Brody Fuller. They have been our leaders all year and set a great example for others not just as ball players, but as fine young men.  I love those guys.”

Going into the bottom of the sixth inning of Game 2, the Wildcats (27-11-2) had a 3-2 lead, but the Bulldogs scored four runs on two hits and took advantage of a walk and a hit batsman. The big, crucial hit in the inning was a two-run homer by Jacob Durden that gave ECI (30-8) a 5-3 lead. In the top of the seventh, the Wildcats tried to rally with two outs when Brody Fuller got an infield single, but Jack Clark struck out to end the game and the Wildcats’ season.

In total, SCHS had five hits in Game 2, with Brody Fuller, Owen Lamb, Trenton Stubbs, Ashton Raybon and Sam Forehand each coming up with those five hits.

Raybon got the start on the mound for the Wildcats and gave up two runs on five hits with two strikeouts in a little over four innings of work. Brody Smith came on in relief of Raybon and ended up taking the loss. Smith gave up three runs on two hits and walked two batters in an inning of work.

In Game 1, which began on Tuesday and had to be postponed until Wednesday due to bad weather, the Wildcats fell behind 2-0 over the first two innings, but came back in the bottom of the second with two runs to tie the game at 2-2. After Jake Little and Jay Kanazawa both singled with two outs, Carson Westbrook drove in two runs on a two-run double to tie the game.

However, the Bulldogs took control of the game in the top of the third inning by scoring four runs on two hits and they took advantage of three errors, a walk and a hit batsman. The big hit of the inning came off the bat of Jacob Durden, who belted a two-run double to give ECI a 5-2 lead, but the Wildcats’ third error of the inning allowed for another run to score and the Bulldogs would go on to win Game 1 by the score of 6-2.

Westbrook led the Wildcats’ offense in Game 1 by going 2 for 4 at the plate with a two-run double and SCHS got base hits from Raybon, Little and Kanazawa.

Owen Lamb started on the mound for the Wildcats in Game 1 and went the distance. He gave up six runs on seven hits with five walks and four strikeouts.

ECI will move on to the Class A Division 2 state championship series and will face Charlton County at Georgia Southern University on Tuesday, May 23.