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April 14, 2012

Wildcats drop another close game to Packers

VALDOSTA — For the second time in four days, the Colquitt County Packers and the Valdosta Wildcats went down to the wire. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they lost both baseball games.

Colquitt built an early 6-0 lead, saw that lead cut to 6-5, but held on for a 7-5 win on Friday night at Bazemore Field.

The win put the Packers in sole possession of first place in Region 1-AAAAA at 7-2 (one game ahead of Lowndes, which fell 3-2 to Tift County on Friday), and dropped the Wildcats to 1-8 in region play.

Things started great for Colquitt on Friday night. The Packers grabbed the lead with two two-out runs in the top of the first. Mack Hathcock doubled into the gap with one out and moved to third when Aubrey McCarty grounded out to first. After Austin Dykes was intentionally walked, Blake Bennett singled home Hathcock with the first run of the game. Dykes later scored on a wild pitch, giving the Packers a 2-0 lead.

Valdosta pitcher Brogen Berard retired the first two batters in the top of the second, but then ran into trouble. Jared May singled to left and stole second and Matt Creech walked. Hathcock’s infield single loaded the bases with two outs, and brought McCarty to the plate.

McCarty saw a pitch he liked, connected and drove the ball over the right field fence for a grand slam, turning a 2-0 Packer lead into a 6-0 lead.

At that point, the Wildcats trailed by six, a deficit that’s not easy to overcome, but they climbed back into the game with four runs in the bottom of the third.

David Posas singled off the second baseman’s glove to start the third. Then McCarty developed control problems. He walked Bradley Felkel and Daniel Tefft to load the bases, then issued another base on balls to Trey Haygood, bringing home Posas with Valdosta’s first run. Berard hit a ground ball to third, but the throw home went over the catcher’s head and Felkel scored. Two batters later, Jacob Davis drew another bases loaded walk, making it 6-3.

At that point, Colquitt pulled the ambidextrous McCarty, who switched from a left-handed pitcher to a right-handed first baseman. McCarty (who had pitched against Valdosta as a right-hander on Tuesday) allowed only one hit in 2 1/3 innings, but walked seven. Reliever Cole Bryant got Drew Morrison to fly out to center, but Haygood tagged up and beat the throw home, cutting the Packers’ lead to 6-4.

Valdosta made it 6-5 with a run in the fourth. Felkel drew a walk to start the inning and stole second. Tefft singled under the glove of a diving second baseman, putting runners on the corners. Haygood hit a fly ball to medium center field, and Felkel tagged up and tried to score. The play at the plate was close, but Felkel beat the tag to score the run.

Colquitt answered with a run in the top of the fifth. Daren Kent reached on a fielder’s choice and took second on a wild pitch. With two outs, Creech lined a single to right, and Kent came home to give the Packers a 7-5 lead. Colquitt put runners on the corners with two outs in the top of the sixth, but Haygood got Vann Pitts to ground out to third to end the inning.

The Wildcats threatened in the sixth, but came away empty. They started the inning with a Posas single and a walk to Felkel. Colquitt went to the bullpen and brought in Dykes, its fourth pitcher of the game. Dykes nearly hit Tefft with two different pitches, before getting him to hit into a fielder’s choice. The Packer southpaw then struck out the next two batters to kill the potential rally. Valdosta also put two runners on base with two outs in the seventh, but couldn’t score again.

For Colquitt, Creech and Pitts had two hits each. McCarty drove in four runs, all on his grand slam. Valdosta only managed four hits on Friday — two of them by Posas — but Colquitt’s pitchers hurt themselves by issuing 12 walks.

The Wildcats (5-11) travel to Coffee next Tuesday.

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