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March 3, 2013

Vikings rally for 6-5 win

Lowndes scores four runs in bottom of the seventh, beats Pace

VALDOSTA — Lowndes’ baseball team scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh, and rallied from a three-run deficit to defeat Pace 6-5 in the final game of the Georgia/Florida Challenge on Saturday at Noel George Field.

It was the Vikings’ second comeback win in as many days. On Friday night, they scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth to defeat Ponte Vedra 4-1 on the same field.

“I could not be more proud of this baseball team,” Lowndes head coach Danny Redshaw said. “We just found a way to do it. ... Just a total team effort. I’m proud of these guys.”

Lowndes (3-2) trailed 5-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh, and hadn’t scored a run since the fourth inning against Pace pitcher Thomas Huston. But the Vikings weren’t ready to give up yet.

Redshaw sent three straight pinch hitters to the plate to start the seventh inning, and all three of them delivered. Garrett Hill lined a single to left. Then Gage Eckwahl hit a routine ground ball to short that could have started a double play. But the throw to second by Pace shortstop Tyler Sharp went into right field, and Hill and Eckwahl ended up on third and second, respectively. Then Zack Richards hit a ground ball through the box that hit the pitcher’s mound and ricocheted to Sharp, who threw to first for the out. But Hill scored to cut the Patriots’ lead to 5-3.

That brought the top of the Vikings’ order to the plate. David Wortham hit a ground ball into the hole, and beat the throw to first for an infield single. Eckwahl scored on the play to make it 5-4. Huston got Dalton Register to pop up to first for the second out. That brought Josh Day to the plate. On one of Huston’s first pitches to Day, Wortham stole second, putting the tying run in scoring position.

Then came the most exciting play of the game. Day lined a single into center field. Wortham was running on contact, and scored easily. Pace’s normal center fielder had gotten injured in the sixth inning, so a reserve player was in center field. When the new center fielder tried to field the ball on the run, he let the ball get by him. Day saw the ball get by him, and kept running. The ball rolled nearly all the way to the fence before it was picked up. Day rounded second and went to third. The ball was being thrown back to the infield as Day reached third. At that point, Redshaw, the third base coach, had a decision to make — and told Day to keep running.

“He can run. We took a chance,” Redshaw said. “Why not? Things were going our way at that point.”

Sharp, the relay man, took the throw from center, spun and fired home. The ball reached Pace catcher Colby Sweat with Day less than five feet from the plate. Sweat swung around to try to make the tag. But Day, who is also a catcher, knew where Sweat’s tag would probably be, and he slid to the left of the plate to try to avoid the tag. With Sweat’s catcher’s mitt just inches away, Day slid around the tag and put his hand on home plate.

The umpire signaled that Day was safe, and the Vikings were victorious.

“The guy probably missed the tag by six inches,” Redshaw said. “Josh made a great slide.”

Pace took an early 1-0 lead with a run in the top of the first.

Lowndes grabbed the lead with two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Day led off with a single to right. Then Cam Buescher drilled a long double that went to the fence in center field, scoring Day. Buck Carter followed with a single up the middle, bringing home Buescher to give the Vikings a 2-1 lead.

Pace tied the game in the top of the fifth. With Sharp on second and one out, Austin Brooks singled to left, and Sharp raced home to tie the score at 2-2.

Then the Patriots took the lead with two more runs in the top of the sixth. Wesley Buckley and Chris Stout walked to start the inning, and moved up on a wild pitch. C.J. Johnson came out of the bullpen for Lowndes, but the first batter he faced, Sharp, hit a single into shallow left field, scoring Buckley. Stout tagged up on Matt McGowin’s fly ball to right and ran home to give Pace a 4-2 lead.

J.J. Johnson’s sacrifice fly in the seventh scored Wayne English and extended the Patriots’ lead to 5-2. That set the stage for an exciting finish.

C.J. Johnson, a sophomore making his first varsity appearance for Lowndes, was the winning pitcher. He allowed one run and two hits in two innings of relief. Register started the game for Lowndes and allowed one run in three innings, then Logan Hutchinson yielded one run in two innings of work.

Lowndes will travel to Cook on Tuesday.

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