TIFTON -- With 11 errors and only nine hits between the two teams, Wednesday night's Tift County Blue Devils-Valdosta Wildcats game will not go down as a baseball masterpiece.
But, the Wildcats left the Devil Diamond happy as Valdosta got its first league win of the year, 3-2, over the Blue Devils.
After going two innings Tuesday in a game that was called due to rain, Tift County's Austin Smith pitched a complete game for the Devils Wednesday. Even though he threw over 120 pitches, the junior did not allow an earned run, struck out four, walked five and allowed five hits.
"Austin pitched a good game," Tift coach Chuck Beale said.
However, the Tift squad committed seven errors behind Smith.
"The errors were the difference in the ball game. They made the plays when they had to and we didn't," Beale said.
One of those plays came in the bottom of the seventh.
After Travis Johnson reached on an error and Tyce Moore singled, the two Tift runners advanced on a passed ball by Valdosta starter Drew Ruttinger.
With one out, Devil leadoff man Lee Caquelard then hit a pop up off of Valdosta reliever Will Flail into right field. The ball kept traveling and it forced Valdosta right fielder Daniel Fowler to make a sliding catch.
But, Johnson did not tag up on the play.
"We thought he would catch it easy and the right fielder has a good arm. We didn't want to risk it," Beale said.
Smith was the next batter and he hit a foul pop that Valdosta catcher Brent Turner made another sliding catch on to end the ball game.
While the ending was not what the Devils had hoped for, the beginning also did not go well for the Tift County team.
With one out in the top of the first, Valdosta's Will Welch reached on an infield single. One out later and one wild pitch later, Tift third baseman Charlie Edwards misplayed a ball hit by Fowler that allowed Welch to score.
The score was still 1-0 in the top of the third when a scary moment happened for Tift County. Valdosta's Scott Shuman hit a fly ball to right-center field. Johnson was playing center for Tift, while Ben Salter was in right. Both of the players went for the ball and collided. Johnson ended up making the catch, but Salter was injured on the play and did not return. According
to reports, Salter was hit in the stomach and was also having problems with blurred vision.
In the bottom of the inning, Tift's John McBrayer led off with the Devils' first hit off of Ruttinger. He ended up going to second on a walk to Johnson and then on to third when a Moore fielders choice loaded the bases.
One out later, McBrayer then scored on a sacrifice fly by Smith.
That run was the only earned run in the contest as Ruttinger also pitched well. He went six-and-a-third innings, striking out three and walking two.
A single by Valdosta's Briggs Smotherman scored Brett Chism in the top of the fourth to make the score 2-1 in favor of the Wildcats. Chism had reached on an error by Edwards.
Tift answered in the bottom of the inning. The Devils' Israel Troupe led off the frame with a deep fly ball to center. Flail crashed into the fence, but held on to the ball for the out.
Christian Glisson then had a one out single. Ross Fulghum followed with a ground ball to Smotherman at third, who threw to Welch at second.
Glisson slid hard into Welch that forced a bad throw that went into the dugout. That allowed Fulghum to go to second on the play.
McBrayer then singled to right. Fulghum went home on the play and it appeared he kicked the ball out of the hand of Turner at the plate which allowed the Tift runner to score.
In the top of the fifth, Fowler reached on an error by Tift shortstop
Jacob Stinson. Fowler then later closed out the game's scoring on an sacrifice fly off the bat of Turner.
McBrayer had two of the four hits in the game for the Devils, while
Glisson and Moore each added one hit.
Welch was 2-for-4 for the Wildcats. Tift and Valdosta are now each 1-3 in the league standings and both teams are now 11-5 overall.
"We have still got to take care of ourselves," Beale said of his team's standing in the league.
After a non-league game at home today against Berrien High at 5:30 p.m., the Devils will take on the Lowndes High Vikings Friday in Valdosta at 7 p.m.
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