The Valdosta Daily Times
NASHVILLE — Berrien’s special season came to a quick and stunning end far sooner than the Rebels could imagine.
Pierce County stormed into Dr. Frank Carter Field and swept away the home-standing Rebels’ dreams of a long playoff run with a pair of close wins in the second round of the playoffs on Wednesday.
The Bears came from behind when down to their last out to win game 1 5-2, then scored the go-ahead run in the sixth inning of game 2 to win 9-8.
Pierce County was able to manage Rebels superstar Larry Greene, who went 0 for 4 in game 1 and walked three times in game 2. He was stranded on deck as the tying run of game 2 when Kalen Dillingham struck out to end Berrien’s season.
Pierce County will travel to Buford in the AA quarterfinals. Berrien only lost two games all year coming into Wednesday but lost twice in six hours to finish the season 26-4.
Game 1: Pierce County 5, Berrien 2
Game 1 ended in a disastrous way for the Rebels. Drew Harrelson pitched the first six innings without allowing a run, and he took a 2-0 lead into the top of the seventh.
That’s when the wheels came off.
Harrelson walked the leadoff batter, and after getting a strikeout, gave up a single to put runners on first and second. The Bears gambled and gave up their second out when they had No. 9 hitter Codi Dixon sac bunt the tying run to third and go-ahead run to second.
The decision paid off when third baseman Kalen Dillingham unsuccessfully tried to backhand a hard grounder and Xavier McGauley scored from first to tie the game 2-2.
Cole Dowling followed with a hit to right that scored Micah Larson and put the Bears up 3-2.
Harrelson was taken out of the game and Kal Simmons entered, but the change didn’t help. Simmons gave up three consecutive base hits and two more runs scored to make it a five-run inning for the Bears. They scored four runs with two outs and took a 5-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
The Rebels started a rally in their half of the seventh when Bears starter Will Lowman walked the first two batters, but reliever Jayk Graham got a ground out and then got Dillingham to ground into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Lowman got the win after pitching six innings and allowing two runs and four hits while striking out eight.
Harrelson’s outing was wasted, as he took the loss after allowing four runs, one earned, in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out seven and allowed just two hits in the first six innings.
The Rebels failed several times to expand their 2-0 lead. Their only two runs came on a sac bunt by Dillingham and a sac fly by Cole Stewart.
Their best scoring chance came in the fourth when they loaded the bases with no outs. However, they only got one run when Stewart plated Simmons on his fly ball left. Lowman got out of the threat when
Devonte Bass lined out to first and Spencer Johnson was doubled up after being caught too far off of second for a double play.
Game 2: Pierce County 9, Berrien 8
With time running out on their season, the Rebels put together a frantic and dramatic comeback only to watch the Bears steal the game away in the end.
Pierce County took a commanding 8-1 lead on a grand slam in the second inning by Vince Elliott, but the Rebels scrapped their way back to tie the game.
Simmons made it 8-3 with an RBI single in the fourth, then Spencer Johnson followed with a two-run single. Dalton McMillian made 8-6 with an RBI single of his own later in the inning.
The Rebels completed their comeback in the top of sixth. McMillian made it 8-7 on a sac fly, and Hunter Garrett belted a grounder down the third base line with two outs to score Johnson and tie the game 8-8.
The Rebels fought long and hard to get back into the game only to see the Bears take the lead right back in the bottom of the sixth. Brian Barefield and Will Lowman led off the inning with singles of off McMillian to put runners at the corners. After a popout, Tim Huff lofted a ball to Greene in center field. Pinch runner Skip Hunter tagged, raced home and beat Greene’s throw to put the Bears up 9-8. Graham, who came on in relief for the Bears in the third, pitched a 1-2-3 seventh and ended the game with a pair of strikeouts. Greene watched the final one from the on-deck circle.
It was a tough loss for McMillian. He entered the game for Ashton Sparks with the bases loaded and served up the grand slam to Elliott.
However, he settled in and gave the Rebels a chance by shutting the Bears down until the sixth.
Simmons started the game and was hit hard. The first two batters hit home runs, then Simmons gave up a single and a double before being taken out without recording and out.
Sparks, a freshman, allowed both inherited runners to score to make it 4-1, but he held the Bears in check the rest of the inning.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, Elliott hit a grand slam and a seven-run deficit was too much to overcome.