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Wildcats baseball: Weekend recap (Apr. 8)
rhhs shortstop connor gilkey
RHHS shortstop Connor Gilkey. Photo provided by Allen Cox.

Friday, 4/5. Game #1, at Valdosta

You talk about spoiling the party, well the Wildcats of RHHS did just that Friday night, sweeping the Wildcats of Valdosta, in Valdosta, 10-8 and 8-4. 

It was the grand opening of their new 10-million dollar baseball/softball facility.  In a see-saw battle, after trading runs in the 1st, VHS got 2 more in the 2nd inning.  RHHS then plastered on 6 more runs in the 4th, with 3 of them coming from Noah Stone's bases loaded single. Valdosta got 2 right back in the 4th and then added 3 more runs in the 5th to take the lead back.  And finally, RHHS sealed game one with 2 runs in the 6th, and 1 in the 7th, to get the win 10-8, but not without drama in the bottom of the 6th and 7th inning. 

Grant Wagner led RHHS at the plate, going 3-5, with 2 RBI's, and scored 3 times, Connor Gilkey was 2-2, with 2 RBI's, and scored twice, Stone was 2-5, with 3 RBI's, and scored once, Alex Hardwood was 3-4, Tyler Fountain had 2 RBI's, and Lee Johnson scored twice.  To say we had that new artificial turf on fire, would be an understatement!  

Tony Dinkins and Alex Wilson, each had 2 hits and 2 RBI's each, and Stephen Little had 2 hits and scored twice for Valdosta.  One of Wilson's hits was a home-run over the right-centerfield fence.  Coats was the starting pitcher for VHS.  Stone started the game for the Cats on the mound.  

In the bottom of the 6th inning, Coach Thomas made the substitution of the night, maybe the year.  You talk about pressure; well, Coach brings in Junior Jeffrey Nielson to get us out of a huge jam.  With the bases loaded, two outs, and a 2-2 count, Nelson gets a one-hopper right back at him, and tosses it to catcher Gilkey, to end the threat.  

Then in the 7th, Valdosta gets a couple on, and after we get a couple out, Nielson handles another grounder to end the excitement.  Coach Thomas and Pitcher Nielson both have a back-up career option–either brain neurosurgeon or the World Poker Tour!  Nielson was phenomenal in relief and got the save!

Friday, 4/5. Game #2, at Valdosta

Now it was time to turn on the lights, put on the hoodie, and watch two Wildcats go at it again.  And boy did they!  The Valdosta air might have cooled off a bit, however, the RHHS Wildcat bats stayed hot.  Junior Aiden Pluff got the start for us and was outstanding.  Pluff pitched 6.2 innings, allowing just one hit and striking out 11.  

Andrea Mason started for Valdosta and pitched 6 innings and struck out 9.  Much like Game One, we traded runs early on, then in the 5th we scored 3 runs to take the lead.  

Valdosta tied the game in the bottom of the 7th, and we won it in extra innings. Tony Berry had a hit and scored twice for RHHS.  Alex Harwood was 2-4, and Lee Johnson was 2-4, with 2 RBI's, and he scored 2 runs.  Third baseman and number 3-hole hitter, Grant Wagner, once again swung the big bat for the Cats.  After loading the bases in the top of the 8th inning, with two outs, Wagner crushed a 1 ball count pitch over the left-field fence for a Grand Slam Homerun to win it for the Cats, 8-4.  Wagner also had two singles and drove in another run.  And then lefty Hunter Clark throws 12 pitches in the bottom of the 8th and gets 3 outs.  

What a night for Richmond Hill Wildcat baseball!  Outstanding performance from the coaches, players, parents, and fans with our first region three-game sweep.  The RHHS Wildcats currently stand alone in 2nd place in Region #1-7A!  The first and second place teams in each region will host, at least, the 1st round of the GHSA State Playoffs, which begin April 25.

Quotes from RHHS head coach Thomas Hill:

“What a day it was. Proud of the resilience our kids showed. There were a lot of factors that we could have easily let effect, but our boys stayed the course through it all. Valdosta put up a heck of a fight. What a moment for Jeffrey! Second appearance of the year and comes into a back and forth game to get us four big outs at the end. All 21 of our guys made it happen and couldn’t be happier for them!”

“Quick turnaround into game two. It’s challenging coming off an exciting win and having to hit the reset button. Game 3 of a series has been our nemesis the last few weeks. Pluff gave us the outing we’ve been looking for and showed how much he’s grown up. We gave up two in the 7th and again could have easily laid down, but we didn’t. Grand slams are rare and Grant hitting that one in the 8th will be one to remember. Our offense is starting to click at the right time. I believe we had around 26 hits on the day. Certainly, I still have some defensive areas to clean up. We’ll get back to work Monday and prepare to hit the road again to face a good Colquitt team that’s playing some of their best ball.”

The RHHS Wildcats play Tuesday, April 9th, at Colquitt County, 6 p.m. in a key region game.

Then on Friday, April 12, we are back at home with again region for the Colquitt County Packers, with a doubleheader, with Game #1 first pitch at 4:30 p.m.

Allen Cox is a baseball contributor for the Bryan County News. He was previously head coach of Richmond Hill High School's softball team from 2004-2007.

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