VALDOSTA -- During its recent run of success (1998-2001), Lowndes High won with power and strong pitching, as well as good defense and timely hitting.
The Vikings that took the field Saturday resembled those teams of the recent past.
Lowndes combined three home runs with strong pitching from Jim Letourneau and Will Thompson, and took advantage of five errors to defeat Valdosta 11-3 at Bazemore Field.
"We swung the bats as good as we've swung them all year," Lowndes head coach Danny Redshaw said. "Our pitchers had 14 strikeouts between the two of them. Good pitching, good defense, swinging the bats-- that's a good combination. This is a big win for us."
Letourneau shut down the Wildcats the first four innings, striking out eight batters. He also hit a second-inning home run that wound up being the game-winning RBI.
"I wanted this start. This is something I've been waiting for since I was a little kid," Letourneau said. "Growing up, I dreamed of pitching against Valdosta. I felt good the first four innings ... then Thompson did the rest."
"Jim threw well," Redshaw said. "He threw strikes, and we had good defense behind him."
For the first three innings, it looked like a pitcher's duel between Letourneau and Valdosta's Bond Crosby. Letourneau allowed only a walk and a single early on, while Crosby gave up just two hits.
Those two hits, though, were big ones. In the second, Letorneau hit a fly ball to right field that kept carrying, and disappeared over the Play It Again Sports sign in right field, giving the Vikings a 1-0 lead.
Then next inning, Lowndes' Bowen Corbett hit a fly ball that was carried by the northeast wind, sailing over the Clinch County Glass sign near center field for another home run.
The game was still within Valdosta's reach at that point. But in the top of the fourth, the Wildcats gave Lowndes extra outs, and the Vikings made them pay for it.
Crosby struck out two of the first three batters in the fourth. But then things started to unravel for VHS. Jacob Jarvis' hit-and-run single moved Britt Jones to third. Corbett then walked to load the bases.
Ryan Carpenter came to the plate, and lifted a long fly ball to deep center field. Valdosta center fielder Austin Bennett caught the ball, but when he hit the wall, he dropped the ball. All three runners scored, turning a 2-0 lead into a 5-0 lead.
Next, Brandon Ponder hit a ground ball into the hole. Shortstop B.J. Southers fielded the ball and threw off-balance to first, where Garrett Rowe stretched and caught the ball. The field umpire ruled Ponder out and the inning over, but the home plate umpire overruled and said the throw pulled Rowe off the base. Crosby came back and struck out the next batter, Nick Copeland, but catcher Zack Millsaps dropped the third strike, then threw the ball into right field. Carpenter and Ponder scored, making it 7-0. Yancey Hartman followed with an RBI double to score Copeland, and it was 8-0.
Valdosta's bats finally came to life in the fifth. Walks to pinch hitter Phillip Braley, David Moore and Bennett loaded the bases, then Braley scored on a wild pitch. Southers then lined a two-strike pitch into left field, plating Moore and Bennett to make it 8-3.
At that point, Redshaw went to the bullpen and summoned the hard-throwing Thompson. Thompson struck out six of the 11 batters he faced, and cooled down the Wildcat bats.
In the top of the sixth, Hartman hit a line drive over the left-field fence, just inside the fair pole, for a two-run home run and a 10-3 lead. The Vikings added a final run in the seventh on Brandon Waller's RBI single.
"What can I say? They outhit us, outpitched us, played better defense, and outscored us," Bart Shuman said. "They were better today."
"This is a good win. We needed it," Redshaw said. "This puts us back in the playoff picture."
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