The Valdosta Daily Times
For the first time this postseason, Lowndes’ baseball team will have to play a decisive game three in order to advance to the next round of the state playoffs.
After splitting with Roswell Tuesday, the Vikings will host the Hornets in game three of the state quarterfinals series today at Noel George Field. First pitch of the winner-take-all game is set for 4:30 p.m. and Lowndes will be the home team after winning the coin toss following Tuesday’s doubleheader.
“You get to this level, the final eight, everyone is good, everyone has good pitching, everyone is well coached,” Lowndes head coach Danny Redshaw said. “They have some kids that can swing it and they play good defense. Baseball is a funny game. We could have won both games 10-0 and they could have. Baseball is like that.”
Lowndes’ starter for today’s game was not announced by Redshaw, while it isn’t hard to figure out who will start for Roswell. Region 5 Pitcher of the Year, and Wake Forest signee, Connor Johnstone, who holds a 1.97 earned run average this season, will start today for the Hornets.
“It is what it is,” Redshaw said. “We have to make adjustments at the plate and not try to kill it. If you try to do too much against a kid like that, he’ll embarrass you. We are going to show up and send kids to the plate.”
Roswell won game one Tuesday, rallying in the seventh inning to beat the Vikings 5-3. Then, in game two, the Vikings used a mammoth eight-run fifth inning to rout the Hornets 9-4.
“We let the first one get away. Well, give them credit, we didn’t really let it get away as much as they took it,” Redshaw said. “It was about what I expected in those two games. I felt like we were fairly evenly matched.”
The split nearly didn’t happen, though. Lowndes came as close as one out away from the game one win, before Roswell put together a three-run, two-out rally in the top of the seventh inning to grab the lead.
The rally came against Lowndes left-hander Cory Pope, who did something Tuesday he hadn’t done in his two previous postseason starts: Give up runs.
With Lowndes one out away from the win, Pope allowed three straight hits, including a double, resulting in three Roswell runs in the top of the frame.
Then, in the bottom half of the seventh inning, the Vikings were retired in 1-2-3 fashion, securing their first loss of the postseason.
Coming into Tuesday’s game, Pope had received little offensive support this season. While Pope received more runs Tuesday than in other game this postseason (3), Lowndes finished the game with just three hits.
The Vikings’ runs were made possible by inconsistent pitching from Roswell starter Syd Hopkins, a Georgia Tech signee.
After two straight singles to start the first inning, Hopkins walked Josh Day, allowed a Buck Carter sacrifice fly — which scored David Wortham — and hit Cam Buescher and Ty Harwell, which scored Blake Smith, who singled.
Then again in the second inning, Hopkins walked Smith and Carter before hitting Harwell for a second time, scoring Carter from third base.
Roswell relief pitcher Austin Kreminski was much better than Hopkins after going into the game in the top of the third inning. Kreminski struck out eight batters in 4 2/3 innings pitched, not allowing a hit and walking just one.
“This group battles, they play well together and they never give up,” Redshaw said. “We have some great leadership on the field and in the dugout. And I told them after the first game, ‘Just go out and have some fun. There is no pressure.
“Pressure is if you’re over in Iraq fighting a war and you got bullets flying by your head. This if fun. Have some fun.’ And our kids responded.”
In game two, Lowndes was held to a total of two base runners through the first four innings, while Roswell took a 2-0 lead. Then, the Vikings responded, scoring eight runs in the top of the fifth inning to grab an 8-2 lead.
Seven of the Vikings’ runs came with no outs, as seven batters came up to bat before Carter hit a sacrifice grounder.
In the inning, Zack Richards had a pinch-hit three-run triple to left field, scoring Mason Miller, Nic Higginbotham and Register. Then, Wortham singled, Smith walked, Day singled and Carter hit his sacrifice grounder.
The next batter, Cam Buescher, cleared the bases for Lowndes with a two-run home run to left centerfield.
The Vikings added another run in the top of the sixth, when Register doubled and scored on a single from Smith, making the score 9-2.
In the bottom of the seventh, Roswell scored two runs off reliever Henry Hoff, who replaced starter Logan Hutchinson in the fifth inning.
Lowndes starting pitcher Logan Hutchinson earned his third win of the postseason, allowing two runs on two hits while striking out seven in four innings pitched.