The Valdosta Daily Times
Appling Christian’s baseball team scored seven runs in the top of the sixth, and pulled away for a 9-2 win over Open Bible in the Georgia Christian Athletic Association Region 2 championship game on Monday.
Appling earned the top seed from Region 2 for the GCAA playoffs. Open Bible got the second seed, and will travel to Hartwell on Friday to face Region 1 champion Barnes Academy in a first round best-of-three series. The first two games will be played on Friday, with the if-necessary game on Saturday.
For five innings on Monday, it was a pitcher’s duel. Open Bible pitcher Nathan Infante allowed two runs, neither of which were earned, and had a no-hitter after five innings. Appling’s Bryce Livingston gave up one run and four hits in the first five innings, and Appling held a 2-1 lead.
But with a playoff game only a few days away, Open Bible knew it would need Infante later this week. So he was pulled after the fifth inning.
“Nathan started the game, and had us in the game, but we had to pull him at a certain pitch count, because we’ve got to be ready to play Friday,” Open Bible head coach John Joye said.
With a new pitcher on the mound, Appling Christian’s bats came alive in the top of the sixth. Bryant Phillips and Cole Livingston started the inning with singles to left. After a strikeout, pinch hitter Dylan Colson hit another single to left, just over the infield, and Phillips scored. A walk loaded the bases, then Rex Cox flew out to deep center field, and Cole Livingston tagged up and scored, giving the Eagles a 4-1 lead.
Then Daniel Beasley doubled off of the left field fence. Colson and Andrew Phillips scored. Bryce Livingston singled home Beasley, making it 7-1. Three batters later, Bryant Phillips doubled to right center, scoring two more runs and extending Appling Christian’s lead to 9-1.
Open Bible scored a run in the bottom of the sixth, but Bryce Livingston retired the side in order in the seventh, and closed out the victory for Appling Christian.
“For five innings, it was a great ball game. And then we had just the one bad inning,” Joye said. “We just missed our spots pitching. We didn’t throw it where we needed to throw it. We threw too many down the middle, and they made us pay. They swing the bats well throughout their lineup.”
Appling got its first run in the top of the second. Zach Carter walked to start the inning. Infante had Carter picked off, but threw the ball over the first baseman’s head, and Carter ran all the way to third. Then Carter took off for home on a wild pitch and scored, giving the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
Open Bible answered with a run in the bottom of the second. Bryce Livingston walked the first two batters, then Matthew Infante singled to load the bases. Holden Highsmith hit a slow roller towards short and beat the throw to first, and Nathan Infante scored. The Warriors were in position to score more, but the next batter grounded into a 1-2-3 double play and the following hitter lined out to first.
Appling regained the lead in the top of the fourth. Nathan Infante retired the first two batters, but walked Bryce Livingston. Then back-to-back hitters reached on errors, and Livingston scored on the second error, giving the Eagles a 2-1 lead.
After Appling Christian’s big inning, Open Bible threatened in the bottom of the sixth. John William Worsley and Nathan Infante reached on errors to start the inning. Caleb Bowden followed with a single to center, driving in Worsley. One out later, Highsmith was hit by a pitch, loading the bases. But Bryce Livingston retired the next two batters on a force out at home and a strikeout, and ended the Warriors’ comeback hopes.
Colton Jenkins was the only Open Bible player with more than one hit, going 2 for 4.
Bryant Phillips was the only Appling Christian batter with multiple hits, going 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored. Bryce Livingston pitched a complete game, allowing two runs, one earned, and five hits. He struck out six.
“It’s hard to complain (about the loss). We’ve had a great season. The guys have played hard all year,” Joye said. “And today, they made some great efforts at times, but we missed some opportunities. We gave them some extra opportunities on defense early, made a couple of little mistakes, which gave them (two) runs.”