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Wildcats finish second in state GRPA tournament
Head coach Sean Strickland gives some instruction to Wildcat sophomore Cody Crow during a pitching change. Crow would later pick up the save for the Wildcats against Ware County. - photo by Terry Logan

Perhaps it was the effort exerted when they came from behind early in the tournament to pull out their first two wins.

Maybe it was the stellar way they played on Friday to beat Ware County 4-2 and advance to the state championship play.

But for whatever the reason, head coach Sean Strickland feels his team lost their focus on Saturday and as a result settled for the state runner up trophy in a double header loss to Baldwin County.

After beating Ware County 4-2 on Friday afternoon it looked as though they had a leg up on the first senior boys Georgia Parks and Recreation Association, (GRPA) state title.

But later that day Baldwin County defeated Ware County to fight their way back from the losers bracket and in to the final day’s action.

Strickland would say later that his team lost their focus and Baldwin came back from the loser bracket on Saturday to first spoil Alex Tucker’s eight inning 85 pitch gem to edge the Wildcats 6-4 in nine innings. In game two a host of Wildcat pitchers saw the roof cave in as the Wildcats bats fell silent in a 12-3 championship game loss.

Richmond Hill started the tournament as though they may not make it that far. It took a 9 run fourth inning against Effingham County in game one to overcome a 10-3 early deficit and and then a similar game two against Metter for a 10-6 win. That set up Friday’s game against Ware County.

Wildcat senior Raul Rodriguez got the start and did not disappoint. He pitched five strong innings to pick up his second win of the tournament but the South Georgia heat had taken its toll and the exhausted Rodriguez, who also led the Wildcats in hitting during the week, would not be available to pitch on Saturday.

Hanging on to a slim 3-2 lead after five innings, but running out of gas, Strickland was faced with having to take his ace out of the game. Cody Crow came to the mound and gave up a lead off double to Baldwin but then struck out the next batter and retired the rest to preserve a 4-2 win to pick up the save.

The Wildcats had to come back again after giving up a first inning run to Ware. Jacob Thrash walked and scored on Jeremy Goolsby’s double then scored himself when Raul Rodriguez doubled him home. It was the only lead Rodriguez would need. He held the Gators scoreless until the fifth when a walk, a sacrifice, and a squeeze bunt plated their second run.

During the tournament it had been Goolsby and Rodriguez leading from the plate but it was also their defense that helped keep the pitching strong.

Shortstop Steven Boaen and third baseman Jacob Thrash made several sterling plays at their positions to keep the Wildcats in the game. Boaen made two nice putouts in the final inning himself.

Alex Tucker deserved a better fate. The Richmond Hill senior pitched eight innings in Saturday’s game one allowing just four runs on seven hits, striking out five while walking just two batters. "Really I could have brought Tucker back out in the ninth, he only had thrown 85 pitches but I didn’t want to over do it with anyone during the tournament, its not worth it to get someone hurt" explained Strickland on his decision to remove Tucker.

Baldwin would score twice in the ninth to earn the win, but the Wildcats who had become accustomed to coming back during the tournament just didn’t have another one in them. After losing the heartbreaker in game one the momentum swung to the Baldwin bench.

It was the second straight year that Richmond Hill has been state runners up in the tournamnet and if it is any indication of future success for the Wildcats it will have been well worth the effort.

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