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May 31, 2014

Tiftarea falls in state championship

CHULA — It was a bases loaded grounder to first that sealed the deal Friday night.

 Down by four with two outs in the bottom of the 7th, the Tiftarea Academy Panthers almost continued the inning, but a smooth play by Tattnall Square's Cory Bartholomew would create the last out of game two of the GISA Class AAA state finals.

The Panthers fell in a sweep, 18-3 and 7-3, curtailing their own long winning streak, but kept Tattnall on their toes until the very end.

After dropping the opener, the team found another foe before they could suit up for game two: Mother Nature. While the rain largely missed the playing field, the sight of lightning sent fans scrambling for their cars and caused a long delay with the first pitch not coming until nearly 9 p.m.

Tattnall, represented as the visitors on the scoreboard in that contest, wasted little time after Bartholomew struck out the side in the top of the 1st.

A two out double by Blake Simmons turned into trouble for Bo Vickers when a walk followed by two consecutive infield errors scored three runs and put them on their heels.

The Panthers got one run back in the top of the 2nd when Thomas Spurlin mashed the first pitch he saw over the left-centerfield fence, but had difficulties getting the Trojan offense off the field.

Jonathan Ward scored their fourth run in the 3rd when Rob Flick threw wild to first attempting to complete a bases loaded double play. Two more came across in the 4th. Cole Gaylord reached base on another error and Nick DiPonzio walked. Simmons drove in both with a double.

 Tiftarea scored a single run in the 5th when Devin Paulk's fly to right was dropped, bringing in Flick from second. However, Ward scored again in the bottom of the frame after he walked, stole two bases and was doubled in by Bartholomew.

 In their last at bat, the Panthers managed to load the bases with a Flick double, walk to Cade Marlowe and Spurlin being hit by a pitch with one out. Noah McMinn walked to score Flick's courtesy runner Sam Varnadoe and brought the tying run to the plate.

That brought out Tattnall’s coach, Joey Hiller, who removed Bartholomew in favor of game one starter, Taylor Ferringer. He struck out Greer Howard before getting Zach Beier to ground out.

 Earlier in the day, game one did not go exactly according to plan with fielding miscues and walks hurting Tiftarea nearly as much as the Trojans' hitting.

 The Panthers had a rough start, but had cut Tattnall Square's lead to four runs when they ran into a disastrous 5th that featured two home runs — one a grand slam — and 11 runs.

 The score was 7-3 and Taylor Folsom had coaxed an out from the first man he saw, but two straight walks and a double provided a run and ended his day. In his place came Ethan Bryant, who issued another pass to load the bases and bring Gaylord to the plate. The two locked into a fierce battle, but it was Gaylord who came out on top when his clout went over the right-centerfield fence.

 Brad Porter then summoned Pete Perrin from the pen who put two men on base before giving up a homer to Dakota Long. Two were on base again when McMinn came over from third. He walked in a run and gave up a two-run double before the inning ended with Ian Herndon thrown out at the plate.

 Tiftarea's three runs came just a half inning earlier.

McMinn and Howard started with back-to-back singles and Beier loaded the bases when a throw on a grounder pulled the first baseman off the bag. McMinn provided their first run when John Thomas Tanner beat the rap at first on a soft grounder.

 With no one out and the sacks still full, Bryant hit into a double play, but no outs were at home and Howard scored. Tattnall's time on the field was extended a bit further when a fly by Flick was dropped, bringing in Beier. The Panthers looked to have another run when Marlowe hit a deep double, but a strong relay throw to home beat Flick.

 A hit by pitch turned into a run in the 1st and a walk came around in the 2nd on a wild pitch before the bats really warmed up for Tattnall. They struck for three in the 3rd behind an RBI double by Long and a single by Bartholomew. Two more scored in the 4th after a muff.

 Ferringer had a strong outing, striking out four.  Gaylord finished with six RBIs in game one and Long had five. Marlowe had two hits for the Panthers.

 In game two, Flick and McMinn each had a pair of hits. Vickers went four innings before being replaced by Marlowe. Paulk pitched the 6th.

This was Tattnall’s third consecutive state crown and in their final year in the GISA. They are moving to the GHSA.

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