ADEL -- Mistakes and inexperience proved to undo the Cook High Hornets in their Class AA first-round state baseball playoff series Friday at Bruce Long Memorial Field, as they were swept 7-4 and 10-0 by Bleckley County.
The Royals, who won the second game in six innings on the 10-run mercy rule, advance to next week's second round against Jackson, which swept Mitchell-Baker 3-1 and 9-7.
The Hornets meanwhile, who are comprised of underclassmen, finish 16-12 in what was expected to be a rebuilding year.
"Our three seniors are the only ones with this kind of playoff experience," said Cook head coach Bob Owsley. "When you get to this time, it's a little more intense. Hopefully we can build on this."
That inexperience of having many players making their playoff debut showed in both games.
In game 1, a crucial miscue by Cook shortstop Brandon Mainor in the third inning made for an early deficit. With runners on first and second and one out, Mainor booted a ground ball off the bat of Trey Ellis. The play allowed Bret Huett, who'd led off with a bunt single, to score.
After Chad Churchwell flew out on what would have ended the inning, Vinson Howell belted a three-run homer to center field for a 5-0 lead.
Howell picked up the win on the mound for Bleckley, giving up four runs on five hits in six innings of work.
Bleckley County, who'd gone up 1-0 on a first-inning home run by Ellis, added to their lead with single runs in the fourth and sixth innings.
Blake Mainor took the loss for Cook in game 1. He went the distance and struck out 11, giving up seven runs, four earned, on 12 hits.
Trailing 6-0 heading into the bottom of the fourth, Cook rallied their way back into the game with two outs. After Kyle Hamilton singled and Blake Mainor drew a walk, Jonathan Mathis clear the bases with a two-run single. Mathis would come around to score on a single by Ty Goff, making it 6-3.
But Goff would end the Cook fourth inning on a bizarre play. With Neal Jones at the plate, a grounder to Churchwell, the Royal third baseman, was thrown across the diamond to Ellis, the first baseman. Ellis couldn't hang on to the throw as Jones reached base. But Goff was thrown out trying to come around to score on the play.
Cook, who managed just five hits in the first game was never able to mount another serious offensive threat over the final three innings, advancing runners into scoring position twice but not being able to draw closer to the visitors from Cochran.
"When your 3-through-6 hitters go 2-for-10 in the first ballgame, it's hard to put any runs on the board," Owsley said.
In the second game, Cook fell behind 2-0 in the first inning and never recovered, going down 5-0 in the second before allowing three runs in the fourth and the decisive two tallies in the sixth.
"You gotta hit the ball," Owsley said. "You can't take nothing away from them, they hit the (stuff) out of it."
Bleckley County hurler Brian Smith held Cook to four hits, two of which came in the first inning.
The Hornets appeared to be on their way to an early lead when Mathis led the game off with single and moved over to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ty Goff. Jones followed with a single off the center field wall. But what looked to be an early high point for Cook turned into a back-breaking one, as Mathis was thrown out trying to score.
Though Jones advanced to second on the play, followed by walks issued to Chris Howell and Justin Ray, to load the bases with two outs, Cody Gooden flew out to end the inning.
Kyle Hamilton took the loss for Cook in game 2, giving up five runs on six hits in only 1.1 innings of work. Howell and Gooden pitched in relief for Cook giving up three and two runs, respectively.
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