Tifton Gazette

Local Sports

June 2, 2009

Tiftarea Panthers win state baseball championship

Chase Ward has huge series for Tiftarea

TIFTON — Tiftarea Academy battled back from two late-inning deficits to win the Class AA title over The Heritage School on Monday in Chula.

Tiftarea’s 4-3 and 5-4 victories sent the Hawks back to Newnan as the runner-up, and Heritage fell for the second consecutive season in the championship series.

Heritage fell to Trinity Christian in 2008.

The Panthers won their second baseball state championship in dramatic fashion Monday, getting two last-at bat wins in the series.

Aaron Estes got an opposite field, bases loaded hit in game 1 to win the game and in game 2 the Panthers were down by a 4-3 score in the top of the seventh inning and with one out, when Garrett Watson lined a double into the gap.

The next batter, Chase Ward, hit a two-run home run, just out of the reach of the Hawks’ center fielder, Candler Rich.

Will Smith then got the Hawks out in order in the bottom of the seventh to seal the win and championship for the Panthers (23-2-1). Senior Josh Haynes recorded the final out for Tiftarea.

“No one is getting this ball,” Haynes said, pointing to his back pocket, where the ball was stashed.

Ward said coach Chris Howell had one thing to say to him as Heritage coach Lynn Huffstickler talked with his starting pitcher, Evan Graybill.

“Coach Howell told me to hit it as hard as I could,” Ward said after the game.

“I was looking for a fastball middle-away, and he threw it right down the pipe.”

“I told Chase not to try and do too much with the pitch, just stay up the middle — and he did the job,” Howell said.

The Hawks (24-4) and Panthers were about as evenly matched as two teams could be, and early on in game 1, Heritage let the Panthers know that they had arrived in Chula.

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