Throughout the week of the Wildcat Invitational Valdosta had made a living on its resiliency in responding to its opponents scores and Saturday was no different; on the final day of the season-opening tournament the Wildcats mojo came through again they rallied past Pope in nine innings 9-8.
"It's just a credit to the character of our kids, they just hung in there," said Valdosta coach Bart Shuman. "We made some mistakes that cost us early, in the seventh inning, we just battled back and found a way to win it,"
With Valdosta holding a 8-5 lead, Pope loaded the bases with a single and two walks sandwiched around the first out of the inning, An error brought in one run before Joshua Lowe laced a double down the third base line to knot the game at 8.
Both teams managed to hold their opponents scoreless until the bottom of the 9th inning.
Tied 8-8, Valdosta rallied one last time without even having to swing the bat. A walk, hit batter, and another walk loaded the bases before Daniel Tefft watched a fast ball miss away on a 3-1 count to bring Logan Stephens in for a walk-off walk.
With the win Valdosta finishes the Wildcat Invitational and begins its young season at 3-0, but each of the three wins also required a rally after falling behind early, but Shuman isn't discriminating against wins at this point in the season.
"With these young guys we've got, I'll take it any way they want to do it," said Shuman regarding the wins. "We're young, and we're just finding ways to win games. So I can't complain."
The game against perennial Georgia baseball powerhouse Pope followed a similar script as most as all of Valdosta's games this season. A back and forth affair all game coming down to the wire.
The Greyhounds scored two runs in the top of the 4th of a 2-2 game and another in the top of the 5th to take a three-run advantage, but whereas in the first couple of games this season Valdosta chipped away at the lead little by little, on Saturday the Wildcats caught Pope, took the lead, and provided themselves cushion all in one huge inning.
Trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the 6th, Valdosta sent 10 batters to the plate, scoring six runs in conga-line manner as seven of eight batters reached based to begin the inning.
Shuman downplayed the Wildcats' bats when asked about the cause of the offensive outburst.
"Nothing, we just got some timely hits by some guys, and we got a couple key walks," said Shuman.
Craig Berry led off the inning by connecting solidly on a ball in the gap for a double. A single from Seth Shuman moved Berry to third before he scored on a sacrifice fly from Jacob McMillan to make the score 5-3 Pope.
A walk and an error loaded the bases with Wildcats and two consecutive bases-loaded walks by David Posas and Stephens, respectively, evened the score at 5 and an errant throw from the Greyhounds' catcher sailed into the outfield, bringing two more runners home for a 7-5 lead.
One batter later Tefft laced a double into right field for an 8-5 advantage with one inning to play, however, after losing to Lowndes in the first game on Saturday, Pope was not ready to go home winless without one last rally.
The Greyhounds knotted the score once again when Joshua Lowe hit a bases-loaded double, scoring two runs, and tying the game at 8 before the Wildcats' walk off.
Lowndes navigated through three innings worth of miscues from both teams before the pitching settled down to suppress Pope's bats in a 9-6 victory Saturday at the Wildcat Invitational.
Sloppy starts are becoming a trend with Lowndes baseball this season, a trend that Vikings coach Danny Redshaw would like to see come to an end.
"It was just ugly baseball for a couple innings by both teams," said Redshaw. "That was their first time out, so you could probably give them a pass on that, but you can't give us a pass. We just played sloppy for about three innings. That's kinda how we've been the first two games.
"It's not a real good thing, in all three games we've played we've started kinda slow, making mental mistakes, physical mistakes, but the best thing about it is that in all three games we've played, we battled back and played better, so that's a good thing."
The two teams combined for four errors, four passed balls, and two wild pitches, all resulting in 15 runs in three innings; it took a pitcher making just his second start since Tommy John surgery to keep runs off the board as Greyson McLeod entered for the Vikings, trailing 5-4 in the third inning before holding the Greyhounds to one hit and one run through the next three innings.
"This was his second time out,” said Redshaw. “He threw very well versus Lincoln, he threw well tonight, he just needs innings.
"He hasn't been out here since he was a sophomore, and we're just tickled pink by the way he's pitched for us."
McLeod, who underwent Tommy John surgery in October of 2012, relieved starter Corey Pope to open the top of the third after Pope allowed five runs in the first two innings.
But before taking their defensive positions in the top of the third, Redshaw pulled aside his players and told them to loosen up and have fun.
"I just told them to relax," said Redshaw. "I mean, I said, 'Guys it's like you've never played before, you're playing scared. Just go play the game, relax and have fun.’ And I think we started doing that."
With the defense settled in behind him, McLeod took the mound and after struggling a bit with his command, got out of the inning only allowing one run on a walk and a double. McLeod continued to keep the Greyhounds' bats quiet throughout the next two innings, allowing just a walk in each inning.
"You work in front of hitters, you play some defense behind him, we didn't help Pope out a lot defensively, but we made some plays behind Greyson," said Redshaw. "He threw strikes and mixed up his pitches, and when you do the little things right it's a pretty simple game."
Pope didn’t score again after the third inning as Lowndes made the 9-6 lead standup over the final four innings to finish the Wildcat Invitational at 2-1.