The rain clouds hovering over the Bryan County High School baseball diamond on Tuesday were about the only thing showing a sign of threat as neither the Bryan County Redskins nor the visiting Claxton Tigers batters could generate any offense.
The highly rated 11-2 Claxton team finally got all the offense they would need as they out -dueled Bryan County for a region victory.
"They’ve only lost one region game and they are playing great baseball," Coach Al Butler said. "Our goal this year was to hold our opponents to four or five runs and we did that. We just didn’t do the other part of our goal and that is to score six or seven runs to win."
This game quickly turned into a pitching match as Redskin Cameron Lee and Matthew Rodgers of Claxton kept both offensive bats silent until Claxton finally ripped a hard hit ground rule double, a single and another ground rule double off of Lee in the fifth inning which produced the first run of the game. Hoping to avoid any further damage, Lee was replaced on the mound by freshman Garrett Riggleman as Lee moved to left field. Riggleman retired the next two batters to get out of the inning.
With Claxton hurler Rodgers still riding a no-hitter, Redskin Cody Crowe drew a walk with two outs to become the first Redskin player to find his way on base. Crowe then stole second to finally give Bryan County a runner in scoring position. To spoil things, Rodgers bowed up and struck out designated hitter Bryce Mingledorff for the third out in what proved to be a continuation of his dominating performance over the Skins.
Young Riggleman struck out the first Claxton batter in the sixth but then a ground ball error, a wild pitch, a muffed fly ball and two walks loaded the bases. Claxton picked up two timely singles amid the Redskins’ gimme’s and found themselves leading 5-0 when the inning finally ended.
Redskin Ben Covington busted up Rodger’s no-hitter in the bottom of the sixth with a nothing to brag about bloop single over second base that finally put a hit in the scorebook for the Redskins. A wild pitch moved Covington to second before Tyler Moody laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Covington to third.
Leadoff batter Kurt Shuman followed with a single and picked up an RBI as Covington crossed the plate for the Redskins' first run. Shuman later stole third base, but the throw hit Shuman and bounced away – allowing him to race home for run number two before the inning ended.
The game closed with another fateful three-up, three-down inning by Rodgers who pitched a complete, two hit game with six K’s and only two walks. Lee and Riggleman combined for Bryan County to give up only six hits with seven K’s, but gave up 10 bases on balls.
"Rodgers did a great job of keeping our batters off balance with his change of speed pitches," Butler said. "He threw a lot of strikes and I told our guys to not go up to the plate looking for a walk because he will be in the strike zone. Rather, I told them to go to the plate looking for a pitch to hit, but he just out pitched us."
When Coach Butler greeted the visiting Claxton coaches at the mound after the game, the usual handshake was replaced with a brotherly embrace as Butler, who recently lost his home to fire, once again felt the compassion and sympathy of others in his time of disarray. To top it off, Butler was presented with bags full of clothes as the Claxton team watched and applauded while Butler loaded up his arms.
"This is one thing I like about coaching in this region," Butler said. "The coaches in this region are like a brotherhood. We may battle each other on the field, but off the field we are friends and enjoy valued relationships with each other. It sure showed here tonight."
Last night, Bryan County ventured into Chatham County to take on Savannah County Day in a Friday night clash.
Results from that contest will be in our Wednesday edition.