The Wildcat summer baseball team took third place at the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association state tournament in Fitzgerald this week.
Head summer coach Sean Strickland said he was pleased with the team’s performance and this should bode well for next season.
The summer Cats started the tourney July 10 against home team Fitzgerald. They were up 2-0 after runs from Tyler Mitchell and John Johnson.
"We gave up three runs right back with some defensive mistakes and couldn’t get anything else going offensively after that," Strickland said.
The Cats ended up losing 10-2 which put them in the loser’s bracket later that same day against Terrell County.
"We played better against Terrell," Strickland said. "We did a better job of putting the ball in play and scratched out some runs."
Darius Lofton went four for four and scored four runs. Cody Crow and Johnson stayed hot at the plate when Crow went one for three with an RBI and Johnson went one for three with a triple and three RBIs.
The mound for this game was a revolving door with Candelario, Ryan Dickey, Brett Auger and Kevin Mathews taking turns on the mound. Strickland said he switched up every two innings in order to pace out the pitching because of having to play multiple games.
"The guys showed incredible poise and maturity against Terrell County," Strickland said. "To come straight from a tough loss and remain motivated really showed me something. The bats came alive and the pitching stepped up."
The Cats ended up beating Terrell 8-3 which kept them alive in the tournament to face MacIntosh the following day. The Cats smashed MacIntosh in a 16-1 victory.
"This game showed our true potential," Strickland said. "We hit the ball as a team - one through nine in the batting order. We took advantage of errors, and John Johnson nailed his second triple in the tournament."
Winning this game put the Cats in the semi finals which, coincidentally, gave them a shot to avenge an earlier loss in a rematch with Fitzgerald.
Some defensive mistakes put the Cats down 6-0 going into the fourth. The Cats came alive in the fourth to rally for seven runs to be up 7-6 as they headed into the fifth inning.
"This inning was some of the most excellent baseball I’ve ever been apart of," Strickland said. "Everything just fell into place. Everything that could go right, went right."
The Cats stayed hot as Mathews struck out three in a row. This was followed by Johnson making a diving catch in left field, springing to his feet and throwing a bullet to Kevin Wilson at first. Wilson stretched out to catch it and pick off their Fitzgerald foe.
"That play was a thing of beauty," Strickland said. "We were so exhausted at that point, but the whole dugout came out to meet them after that. We failed to maintain though as the wheels fell off in the sixth. We lost control of the strike zone and made a couple key errors to take an 11-7 loss and go home with third place."
"Sure, we would’ve liked to have placed higher," Strickland continued. "I mean we took second the last two years, but these boys showed a lot of heart and guts on that field. To overcome the errors that they committed, but still bring home third place showed how much they fought and clawed to stay in it. The pitching stepped up and showed that we have a lot of depth for next year. A great foundation was laid that should carry us into next spring."
The summer team included Mitchell, Darius Lofton, Johnson, Wilson, Dickey, Jacob Thrash, John Phifer, Taylor Smith, Rushing, Dustin Devita, Candelario, Steven Boaen, Connor Mitchell, Auger and Mathews.