The Valdosta Daily Times
The Lowndes Vikings swept their Winnersville baseball doubleheader, beating crosstown rival Valdosta 10-2 and 2-0 on Friday night at Bazemore Field.
Lowndes now sits in first place in Region 1-6A with a 6-0 region record. The Vikings (9-4) have won eight of their last 10 games.
“It was huge,” Lowndes assistant coach Ryan Page said. “Not only did we get (two wins) tonight against a great Valdosta team and our rival, we went to 6-0 in the region. ... We’re pretty excited about what we’re doing. (We are) 6-0; you can’t beat it.”
The Vikings got strong outings from their pitchers. Cory Pope pitched a complete game and held Valdosta to two runs and four hits in game 1. Then Dalton Register combined with Logan Hutchinson for a three-hit shutout in game 2.
“I was very happy with both of (our starters),” Page said. “Pope struggled a little early, but put it together, got his composure. (He’s) just a tough, gritty kid, gives 110 percent. Dalton tonight just mixed it up very well, and kept their hitters off balance.”
The Vikings were also nearly flawless on defense, committing just one error.
“I can’t say enough about the defense tonight,” Page said. “I thought defensively we played a great ballgame. That’s the recipe for us; if we play good defense, we tend to have a chance to win every game.”
“Lowndes is very good defensively,” Valdosta head coach Bart Shuman said. “I thought they got great pitching, especially the second game. ... I liked the way we played. We just got beat.”
Game 1: Lowndes 10, Valdosta 2
The Vikings scored eight runs in the final four innings and pulled away for a 10-2 victory in game 1.
The score was tied 2-2 heading into the top of the fourth. Lowndes’ Nic Higginbotham drew a walk to start the inning, stole second and took third on a wild pitch. Josh Day lined a one-out single to right, and Higginbotham scored to give the Vikings a 3-2 lead.
Then the Vikings broke the game open in the fifth inning, putting five runs on the scoreboard. Register led off with a single to right center and was sacrificed to second. A walk, a strikeout and another walk loaded the bases with two outs. Martin Tucker came off the bench to pinch hit, and hit a slow roller. Valdosta shortstop David Posas charged in and tried to make a quick, off-balance throw to first. But the throw was off the mark and got by the first baseman, and Register and Hoff scored. Tucker got too far off of second, and should have been caught off base for the third out. But the throw to second went into center field, and Higginbotham scored. Then Day ripped into a pitch and drove it over the fence in left center for a two-run homer, giving the Vikings an 8-2 lead.
Buck Carter led off the sixth with a home run to left field, increasing Lowndes’ lead to 9-2. The Vikings scored one last run in the top of the seventh. Gage Eckwahl’s RBI single scored Garrett Hill to make the score 10-2.
Valdosta had taken an early 2-0 lead with two runs in the bottom of the first. A walk, a single by Bradley Felkel and a fielder’s choice put runners on first and second with one out. Then Shuman called for a hit-and-run on a two-strike pitch to Corey Jaramillo. Jaramillo swung and missed, but the catcher’s throw to third went into left field. Felkel raced for the plate, and beat the throw to score the game’s first run. David Posas followed with a single, and Kaleb Whitfield scored to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.
Lowndes answered with two runs in the top of the second. After striking out the first batter, Valdosta pitcher Zach Newham walked Blake Smith and Henry Hoff. Then Garrett Fuller bunted for a single, loading the bases. Then Newham walked Higginbotham, and Smith scored. Newham struck out David Wortham, but walked Day, and Hoff came home to tie the score at 2-2.
“I think pretty much the walks were the difference,” Shuman said. “You cannot win ballgames with 11 walks.”
Lowndes had nearly scored in the first inning, but Felkel, the Wildcats’ center fielder, gunned down a runner at home plate.
Lowndes threatened in the top of the third. With two outs, Smith bunted for a single and Hoff was hit by a pitch. Newham’s two strike pitch to Fuller was low, but Fuller swung at it. The ball hit home plate, bounced up, grazed Fuller’s bat and bounced away. But the home plate umpire said the ball had hit Fuller’s foot, not his bat, and called it a dead ball. Because Fuller had swung at the pitch, he was called out.
That was the last pitch Lowndes head coach Danny Redshaw saw. After the home plate umpire called Fuller out, Redshaw came out and argued that it should be a foul ball. The longer he argued, the more intense he appeared to get. The field umpire led Redshaw back to the dugout, but the Lowndes head coach kept yelling. Finally, the home plate umpire had enough and threw Redshaw out of the game. Redshaw had to sit out game 2 (and will miss the Vikings’ next game), due to GHSA rules.
After that, Lowndes’ players said that if Redshaw was going to fight for them, then they would fight for him. And they did. They scored eight runs in the next four innings, and pulled away for the win.
Pope turned in another quality start for the Vikings. The junior southpaw pitched a complete game, and struck out eight batters.
At the plate, Day went 2 for 2 with a home run and four runs batted in. He reached base all five times he came to bat. Carter was 2 for 4 with a solo home run.
Felkel was 2 for 2 and scored a run for Valdosta.
Game 2: Lowndes 2, Valdosta 0
The second game of the doubleheader was a pitcher’s duel between Lowndes’ Dalton Register and Valdosta’s Jacob Davis.
Register allowed no runs and three hits in 5 1/3 innings, while Davis pitched a complete game, allowing two runs and four hits and striking out six.
But Lowndes scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth, and that was the difference in the game.
The Vikings came to bat in the bottom of the fourth with the game scoreless. Up to that point, neither team had gotten a runner past second.
David Wortham led off the fourth with a single to center and Day walked. Davis retired the next two batters, but hit Register with a pitch, which loaded the bases. Blake Smith went the opposite way and lined a single to left, and Wortham scored. Then a pitch got by catcher Brennan Goodson, and Day took off for home. Goodson threw the ball to Davis, who tried to tag Day. But Day found a way to touch home plate before getting tagged, and Lowndes had a 2-0 lead.
Valdosta tried to answer in the top of the sixth. David Posas led off with a single to right and moved to third on a pair of wild pitches. But Register got Logan Stephens to ground to third to end the inning.
Lowndes pulled Register with one out in the sixth, and brought in Logan Hutchinson. Hutchinson slammed the door, striking out four of the six batters he faced and preventing the Wildcats from rallying.
“Logan was just lights out the last two innings,” Shuman admitted.
No player on either team had more than one hit in the second game.