The Valdosta Daily Times
In the third day of the Wildcat Invitational, the host team took care of business as Valdosta slipped by Berrien 10-8 on Wednesday.
In the second game the Wildcats have played in their season-opening tournament, Valdosta displayed resiliency by continuing to fight in a game that could have easily gotten away from them and earning a win that Valdosta coach Bart Shuman was overjoyed to have.
“It’s been so long since I’ve had that [come from behind] feeling, I don’t know if I can describe it,” said Shuman. “It feels good right now. It was a lot of resiliency, definitely.”
Berrien got off to a quick start against Valdosta pitcher Jacob McMillan as the right-hander loaded the bases with no outs by giving up a single sandwiched between two walks.
Valdosta exchanged a run for the first out of the game when a fielder’s choice brought a runner in from third. Joe McCranie scored a moment later to give the Rebels a 2-0 lead when a ball squirted past catcher Brennan Goodson, but luckily for McMillan, he was able to avoid any more damage in the opening frame by getting a nice strikeout and throwout double-play to get out of the inning.
The Wildcats would not wait long to respond as a Goodson double brought David Posas around from first base to give Valdosta its first run of the day. Logan Stephens came in as a courtesy runner for Goodson, but Stephens was stranded at third giving Berrien a 2-1 lead after the first inning.
Unfortunately for the ’Cats, needing a clean inning to build some momentum, McMillan’s struggles worsened in the second inning. Valdosta’s starter gave up a double to open the inning before a massive shot from McCranie cleared the left-field wall to give Berrien a 4-1 lead.
With McMillan looking out of sorts, Valdosta decided to bring in a new pitcher — John Eager took the mound and answered the call by getting out of the inning without further damage, thanks in part to a nifty play from Eager to snare a ground ball and throw the runner out at first.
Once the Wildcats got back to the plate they once again responded swiftly, tying the game at 4 with a walk, a hit batsmen, and three singles, the biggest of which came from Daniel Tefft to bring home two.
Valdosta had plenty of chances to fight adversity as the back-and-forth manner carried throughout.
Berrien scored two runs in the third — mostly due to bad play in the field — and two more runs in the fourth while Valdosta scored four runs of its own in the fourth to tie the game and another in the fifth to take a 9-8 lead.
“The biggest thing was our hitters’ patience,” said Shuman. “We waited on good pitches, got a couple of walks, and we just had a lot of really good plate discipline and that was the biggest thing.”
The Wildcats tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth thanks to heads up base running from Stephens.
Stephens took third base on a ground out before scoring on a short fly ball in the midst of defensive confusion, but nine runs would prove to be enough as the Rebels were held without a run over the final three innings after scoring two runs apiece in the previous four.
Howard and Cook meet at 6 p.m. today as the Wildcat Invitational continues at VHS.