Things didn't look good for Lowndes on senior night.
The Vikings were down 7-1 against Cook in the bottom of the fifth, but one inning changed everything; the Vikings’ raced past the Hornets in a 10-run inning en route to a 14-7 victory in the final game at Noel George Field this season.
Facing a six-run deficit, Lowndes sent 14 batters to the plate against four different pitchers, producing 10 runs on seven hits, including a three-run home run by Cole Bradley.
"It seemed like everyone hit it. I know Bradley had a big home run, but everyone was hitting it," said Lowndes coach Danny Redshaw of the fifth inning. "I don't think they made an error that inning. They walked a couple, hit a batter, then we had seven or eight hits.
"The last three ballgames we've swung it pretty good. When you swing it pretty good, good things happen."
The inning started inauspicious enough; Jarad Lewellen walked to lead-off the inning, but Lowndes had just two baserunners in the previous three innings against Cook starter Pate Betts so the walk hardly seemed like reason for concern.
Then another walk, this time to Grayson McLeod, put runners on first and second with no outs, but still, no real reason for alarm. Nick Higginbothom was struck by a pitch in the next at-bat to load the bases for the Vikings with no one out.
If Logan Hutchinson's two-run single cracked the door to Lowndes' comeback, the next at-bat blew the hinges off, Kaleb Sadler replaced Betts on the mound and he was greeted with a three-run shot over wall in left-center from Bradley to bring the Vikings within one, 7-6.
Sadler's stay in the game was brief as Jud George's double chased the pitcher and put the game-tying run in scoring position.
Blake Cowart took over for Sadler, but he didn't fare much better. Tyler Thompson's double tied the game at 7-7 before Henry Hoff brought him in on a single to give Lowndes its first lead since the bottom of the first.
The Vikings finally had the lead, but they still weren't satisfied. The ninth batter of the inning, Corey Pope reached base on a bunt single before the Hornets retired the first batter of the inning, Lewellen, on a popup.
Lowndes' seventh hit of the inning, a Mark Felton double, brought Hoff and Pope home for a 10-7 lead. After a walk, the Vikings scored their final run of the inning on a sac fly from Hutchinson.
Just like that Lowndes turned a 7-1 deficit into a 11-7 lead in the final game the Vikings seniors would get at Noel George Field.
"The kids were just excited," said Redshaw. "We were a little flat, gave them a lead. We didn't play real well the first four innings or so, but hitting is contagious. We get one or two guys to hit the ball and everyone's hitting it.
The Vikings went on to score three more insurance runs in the sixth, but they wouldn't need them. Hoff allowed just two baserunners in 2 1-3 innings of work, striking out four in the process to preserve Lowndes' victory.
The Vikings scored just one run in their first four innings, and 13 in their final two which many fans wondering, what changed?
"I don't know," said Redshaw. "It was the same guy, actually I think they threw three or four pitchers, but it all started with the guy who shut us down the first four innings.
"If I could answer that question, I ought to write a book or something."
While the narrative for Lowndes is obviously its big inning, the story for Cook has to be the opportunities missed that could have put the game away early.
The Hornets loaded the bases in the top of the fourth with a 4-1 lead, but Zane Folsom grounded into a double play to end the threat.
One inning later, now leading 7-1 after two Lowndes errors sandwiched around a triple, a double and two consecutive infield singles once again loaded the bases for Cook, but once again Cook could not push across any runs as Hoff forced a fly out to end the inning.
Lowndes' final game of the season is scheduled for today in Lee County at 6 p.m.
Things didn't look good for Lowndes on senior night.
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Others will have to wait and see what continues to take shape come Friday when teams can begin fall practice, and especially Aug. 1 when teams can suit up in pads for the first time, such as can Valdosta win its record 24th state title, or can Lowndes capture its fourth state championship under Randy McPherson, or can Valwood and coach Ashley Henderson play in its third straight GISA state championship game?
As we start to find out the answers to those questions in just a few short weeks — the regular season is just 31 days away — there should be a few more milestones for area coaches to mark 2014 right along with the Generals getting back on the gridiron.
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