The Valdosta Daily Times
Lowndes had a strong start to the Region 1-6A baseball season, sweeping a doubleheader from Coffee on Friday night at Noel George Field.
The Vikings scored nine runs in the first three innings, and won the first game 10-2. Then Dalton Register and Logan Hutchinson combined for a shutout in game 2, and led Lowndes to a 4-0 victory.
“It’s great to start (region play) 2-0,” Lowndes head coach Danny Redshaw said. “Usually that first region win under your belt is good. It’s nice to get the first two on one night. It’s big. It’s a step in the right direction.”
Lowndes’ pitching was outstanding on Friday. Corey Pope and Andy Perkins combined to hold Coffee to two runs and three hits in game 1, then Register and Hutchinson shut the Trojans out in the second game.
“Our starters, Corey Pope and Dalton Register, threw extremely well,” Redshaw said. “Perkins came in and did well to close out game 1. (He’s) a young sophomore. Hutchinson has been hurt; it was good to see him come in. Once he gets his command back, he’s going to be tough. (I’m) very happy with the way Corey and Dalton threw. (We had) good pitching and good defense.”
Lowndes 10, Coffee 2
The game 1 rout started in the bottom of the second, when the Vikings put five runs on the scoreboard.
With one out, Ty Harwell singled to shallow center, Register was hit by a pitch and Blake Smith walked, loading the bases. Coffee pitcher Keegan McGovern struck out the next batter, and appeared to have escaped the jam when he got Nic Higginbotham to hit a ground ball to short. But ball bounced up and hit the shortstop in the chest, Higginbotham reached safely and Harwell scored the first run of the game. David Wortham followed with a single to center, scoring Register and Smith. A walk to Josh Day loaded the bases, and a walk to Cam Buescher brought Higginbotham home to score. Then Wortham ran home on a wild pitch, giving the Vikings a 5-0 lead.
Lowndes continued to score in the third inning. Harwell walked to start the inning and went to third on Blake Smith's hit and run single one out later. Garrett Fuller greeted reliever Luke Sims with a single to right, driving in Harwell. With two outs and the bases loaded, Day singled to right. Smith and Fuller scored, and when the right fielder was slow throwing the ball to the cutoff man, Higginbotham kept running and slid home ahead of the throw. That extended the Vikings' lead to 9-0.
“They made a few mistakes, and we took advantage and hit the baseball when we had opportunities to score,” Redshaw said. “That’s what you have to do.”
In the top of the fourth, Coffee loaded the bases with no outs. Then Santory Long tagged up and scored on Landon Henderson’s fly ball. McGovern made it to third on the play, and was awarded home plate after the throw to third went into the dugout, cutting Lowndes’ lead to 9-2.
Lowndes got its last run of the game in the bottom of the fifth. Coffee pitcher Andrew Fender retired the first two batters, and it appeared to be a 1-2-3 inning when he struck out Cam Buescher. But the catcher dropped the third strike, and Buescher reached first safely. Buck Carter and Harwell followed with singles, and Harwell’s hit drove in Buescher to make it 10-2.
That was more than enough run support for Pope. The junior left-hander turned in another quality start, allowing two runs, only one of which was earned, and three hits in six innings, and striking out six. Perkins closed out the win with a 1-2-3 seventh.
Harwell went 3 for 3, scored two runs and drove in a run. Smith and Higginbotham had two hits and scored two runs each. Every player in Lowndes’ lineup reached base at least once, and seven different players scored runs.
Game 2: Lowndes 4, Coffee 0
Lowndes’ pitchers continued to dominate in game 2.
Coffee threatened in the first, but Register got out of the inning with a ground ball back to the mound for the third out. The Trojans had runners on second and third with two outs in the second, but Register got Chan Hughes to fly out to center for the third out. After that, no one got past first against the senior right-hander.
The Vikings took the lead with two runs in the top of the second. Carter reached on an error to start the inning. Harwell lined a single to left, but when the left fielder tried to field the ball, it went under his glove and kept rolling. Carter raced around the bases and scored. Harwell made it to second on the play, and went to third on a passed ball. Three batters later, with runners on the corners and one out, Smith tried to steal second. He was tagged out, but Harwell ran home to give the Vikings a 2-0 lead.
“We got the early lead, and the pitching made it hold up,” Redshaw said.
The score remained 2-0 until the top of the sixth. With one out in the sixth, Carter singled to right and Harwell walked. One out later, Smith lined a single to right, and pinch runner Martin Tucker came home to make it 3-0.
The Vikings tacked on one final run in the seventh. Leading off the inning, Higginbotham hit a fly ball that went over the left fielder’s head. He took off running, and slid into third just ahead of the throw. Two batters later, Day lined a single to left, and Higginbotham crossed home plate with the game’s final run.
Hutchinson replaced Register after McGovern singled to start the sixth. He held Coffee hitless and scoreless for the final two innings, while striking out three batters, and picked up the save.
Higginbotham went 2 for 3 with a triple in game 2. He was the only Viking with more than one hit.
Lowndes (5-3, 2-0 in the region) will host Chiles on Tuesday at 6 p.m.