Despite clinching a playoff berth, the Lowndes Vikings weren’t celebrating when they walked off the field Friday night. But they were disappointed either.
After routing two-time Region 1 champion Colquitt County 13-2 in six innings in game one of Friday’s doubleheader, the Vikings were handed an 11-1 drubbing by the Packers in game two at Noel George Field.
With the game one victory, though, the Vikings clinched a berth in the state playoffs, set to begin in May, and remained atop the region standings with a 7-1 record.
“If you would have told me March 8 that we would be 7-1 here today, I would’ve taken it,” Lowndes head coach Danny Redshaw said. “It is not life or death. We’re in pretty good shape. I would have taken (a) 7-1 (record) March 8 when we began region play. Anybody in the region would be happy to trade us right now.”
The Vikings started the day off on the right note, by routing the Packers and earning a playoff berth. The night didn’t end well, though.
The Vikings were limited to just three hits while they surrendered seven hits and five walks to the Packers in game two, suffering their first region loss of the year.
“We didn’t swing it well, we didn’t pitch it well and we didn’t field it well,” Redshaw said. “That is really the first bad region baseball game we’ve played this year. It happens.”
Colquitt County sits in second place in the region, with a 6-2 in-region record. Coffee is third with a 4-2 mark, although the Vikings own the tiebreaker over the Trojans.
Lowndes doesn’t play another region game until April 12, when it host Brunswick. By then, the Vikings could be playing for the No. 1 seed, pending a few upsets.
Lowndes 13, Colquitt County 2
Josh Day went 3-for-3, drove in five runs and scored another, while Cory Pope delivered a dominating pitching performance in the Vikings’ game one victory.
After trailing 2-0, Lowndes scored 13 unanswered runs to close out the game in six innings.
The Vikings got a pair of runs in the third inning. Blake Smith walked and a pitch hit Garrett Fuller, giving the Vikings runners at first and second base. Then, Nic Higginbotham reached base on a fielder’s choice to second base, which Fuller beat out and reached base safely.
With the bases loaded, David Wortham grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Smith and Day flew out to center field on a sacrifice fly to center field to score Fuller.
Lowndes got three runs in the fifth inning when Day homered to left field. With two outs, Higginbotham reached base on a hit-by-pitch and Wortham walked, before Day’s homer.
The Vikings blew it open in the sixth inning, mounting nine hits and scoring eight runs off the Packers.
Every Viking batter that took to the plate scored runs, except for Dalton Register, who laid down a sacrifice bunt to move over runners, and Ty Harwell, who had a pinch-hit RBI single before being replaced on the base pads by Martin Tucker, who scored.
Pope earned the victory on the hill. After surrendering a walk and two hits in the first inning, Pope calmed down and allowed just one hit through the final five innings and struck out seven Packer batters in the process.
“He was lights out,” Redshaw said of Pope. “He has only had one bat outing all year. He struggled a little bit in the first and he battled and found a groove. He was in control from the second inning on.”
After scoring five runs off just hits through the first five innings, the Vikings started to lay into Packers starting pitcher Aubrey McCarty, an ambidextrous pitcher that has already signed with Vanderbilt.
With just two hits heading into the sixth inning, the Vikings managed five hits and four runs off McCarty before he was taken out of the game.