Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

May 17, 2014

GAC ends Berrien’s season in quarterfinal

NASHVILLE — Rain may have pushed back Game 3 of Berrien and Greater Atlanta Christian’s Elite Eight series in the GHSA Class AA playoffs, but it wouldn’t change the outcome. The Spartans came into Friday’s game prepared after seeing their 5-1 lead washed away on Wednesday, defeating the Rebels 8-1 to advance.

“Well, I told my kids, ‘Today they outplayed us,’ said Berrien coach Doug Nix. “I tip my hat to them. Cliff Shelton is a great guy, I can’t say enough about him. He’s been there 32 years, he’s a great coach.”

Despite the loss, the game couldn’t have started off any better for the Rebels considering how they fell behind 5-1 in the first attempt to play Game 3.

On Friday, Berrien got out to another early 1-0 lead when Dalton Ingram walked to leadoff the top of the first. Ingram stole second and took third on a wild pitch before scoring on a grounder to short. Unlike Wednesday, the Rebels were able to fend off the Spartans in the bottom of the inning, holding Greater Atlanta Christian scoreless thanks to a batter  interference call on a stolen base attempt.

Both teams went down in order in the second inning, but in the third Berrien’s pitching finally began to show some cracks.

A common theme throughout the game, the Spartans struck with two outs in the inning. Harry Kerr singled before coming around to score on Jackson O’Brien’s double to tie the game at 1-1.

Peyton McGuire continued to baffle the Rebels bats with another 1-2-3 inning in the fourth, but Ashton Sparks could not keep up in the pitcher’s duel. Sparks got Greater Atlanta Christian’s leadoff man to fly out to open the bottom of the fourth, but an error allowed the second batter to reach, opening the door and allowing the Spartans to charge right through.

Two more runners reached base before a deep fly ball — which would have been the third out of the inning — brought in the go-ahead run. Lucas Boudreau stepped up to the plate next and laced a single into left field to give Greater Atlanta Christian a 4-1 lead.

The three-run deficit was basically insurmountable with the way McGuire pitched. The left-hander stifled Berrien in Game 1 en route to a 2-1 win and he was back at it in Friday’s Game 3. McGuire didn’t allow a hit until there was one out in the bottom of the seventh and his team held an 8-1 advantage, something Nix didn’t foresee happening.

“We felt like we’d be able to hit (McGuire),” said Nix. “He’s a soft lefty, but that’s sometimes hard to hit. We had a lot of fly outs and some hard hit balls. They made some great plays in the field, we hit the ball right at them, but we just weren’t able to get the ball down.”

The loss ends one of the Rebels’ greatest seasons in recent history. Berrien hadn’t advanced to the Elite Eight in more than two decades, but it’s the fight his team showed that Nix was most proud of.

“I’m proud of what our kids have accomplished this season, they fought, they’ve been to Game 3 in all three series,” said Nix. “I can’t say enough for the things they have done and accomplished this season. I’m proud of them.”

Despite the tough loss, the future looks bright for Rebels baseball. A majority of the team will be returning for next season, along with some exciting incoming freshman, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Berrien still playing this time next season.

“We have obviously have four very good seniors we have to replace, but we have some good young players — I think we finished the game with five sophomores — we’ve got several juniors, so we’re looking forward to what we have coming back,” said Nix. “These kids kinda got a taste of it this year, this was deeper than we’ve been since I’ve been here, so I hope that’ll help us in the future.

“We’ve got a real good eighth grade class coming up so we’re excited about the future here as far as baseball’s concerned.”

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