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March 11, 2014

Perkins leads relentless Vikings past Trojans

VALDOSTA — While neither starter was able to record more than one out Monday night, Andy Perkins had little trouble getting them.

Lowndes' third pitcher retired 12 of the 14 hitters he faced, including the final 11, as he allowed the Vikings to rally past Lee County 12-9 at Noel George Field. The win, which moved Lowndes to 3-6, snapped a five-game skid for the Vikings. The Trojans fell to 1-7.

"He did a good job for us and we played good defense behind him," Lowndes coach Danny Redshaw said. "It was a shot in the arm.

"We're looking for some of our guys down the depth chart as far as pitching and he stepped up tonight and did a good job."

Perkins entered with the score tied at 6 in the fourth. However the Trojans' first two hitters — Robbie Feagans and Jack Bell — had reached against CJ Johnson. After Lowndes first baseman Mark Felton threw wildly to second trying to nab Bell on Nick Bruner's sacrifice bunt attempt, a play that put the Trojans back up 7-6, Perkins got his first out with a strikeout. Nick Bush, though, followed with a two-run double. But that would be Lee's final baserunner.

And for the second time, it didn't take Lowndes' relentless offense long to answer a big Trojan inning. Felton, Brooks Bennett and Cody Mason all reached with one out to load the bases in the bottom half of the fourth. An out later, Viking leadoff hitter Nick Higginbotham ripped a bases-clearing triple into right-center to knot the game at 9.

"We kept putting pressure on them," Redshaw said. "We got some clutch hits and kept getting runners on, and made some things happen."

Two innings later, the Vikings finally went ahead. Mason Miller opened with a single and then advanced a base each on a Higginbotham bunt and a Perkins ground out to reach third with two outs. He then dashed home on a wild Michael Reddick pitch to put Lowndes up 10-9. The Vikings, though, weren't finished. Cole Bradley, Buck Carter and Jud George all reached to load the bases once again — Lowndes had the bases loaded in five of its six innings — and Felton's liner to center was misplayed and went off Bush's glove to let two more runs score.

Early, it didn't look like the Vikings would have much chance to rally as Lee scored six runs in the first. Lowndes starter Cody Harwell walked the first three Trojans and Bell followed with an RBI single that made it 2-0. Following an out, Harwell walked his fourth hitter and was lifted for Johnson. Bush greeted him with a two-run double and Austin Sheltra and Manny Chavarria then had consecutive singles to push the lead to 6-0.

Armed with the big lead, Lee starter Chris Hayes struggled as well. The first six Vikings all reached as Higginbotham opened with a double and Perkins, Carter and Felton all adding singles. A bases-loaded walk to Mason ended Hayes' outing before Dean Tompkins relieved and escaped the jam with Lee still up 6-4 after a 43-minute first inning.

"I think that was the key to the game," Redshaw added. "We came back in and scored four. We didn't roll over and quit. And we played ourselves right back into the game."

The damage was done, though, as the Vikings were back in it. Nipping at the Trojans' heels, Lowndes caught them for the first time in the third as Johnson singled in one run and then Perkins' bases-loaded groundout tied it.

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