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March 3, 2014

Reinhardt has game winner in miracle 7th inning

TIFTON — There was a time that the Tift County Blue Devils were not just about to give up their undefeated record on the diamond to the Veterans Warhawks, but that they were about to fall victim to the mercy rule.

After Veterans scored three runs in the top of the 6th, the Devils were down 13-4.

With two outs in the bottom of the 7th and the score 13-12, Will Reinhardt was at the plate. The Devils had scored three runs in the 6th and had plated five in the 7th.

Malik Johnson, who had come in to run for Blake Suggs, was at third. Alex Abbott, who had earlier extended the inning with a two-run double was at second.

Reinhardt had a 1-2 count on him. An out would mean that eight runs scored over two innings would come to nothing. He already had three hits in the game, all doubles, but he was also on the hook for a loss as he had been the starter, working two innings where Veterans scored six runs.

The pitch came to him. He extended his arms and the ball went sailing to deep center. It was a long run for the fielder an he could not quite reach it. Johnson had been an automatic run and Abbott was gone on the crack of the bat. The only man who could catch any of them was Zeke Dodson, who got to Reinhardt at second after both runs were in.

Tift's pair of miracle innings started slowly.

Ryan Ross was hit on a 3-0 count with one out, but remained there when Dodson flew out. Jonah Reyes worked a walk as did Suggs. The bases were loaded for Abbott and while he could not quite poke the ball over the fence, he managed a triple. That would be all the scoring as Briggs Benson popped to second, leaving them down 13-7.

The top of the 7th was quiet for Veterans and only their second scoreless frame.

Reinhardt led off the bottom of the inning with a double. Zack Bullard singled him in, then moved up to 3rd when the catcher could not handle a pair of pitches. Will Boothe, in as pinch hitter, struck out.

Ross singled in Bullard, then scored himself on Dodson's double. Reyes coaxed another walk and Deviner McCray came in to run for him. Veterans changed pitchers, but immediately walked Suggs to put a man on every base and coach Kyle Kirk opted to use the speedy Johnson in the spot of the potential tying run.

Abbott stepped up with them down by three and struck a double that scored two. A strikeout put the Blue Devils down to their last out, but that put Reinhardt back at the plate.

The Devils' day did not start well. Reinhardt surrendered a leadoff single. He picked him off first, but walked the next batter. That man was caught stealing, but Mickey Dugan walked and this time Reinhardt could not make up for it as Kyle King blasted a homer to start Veterans off 2-0.

Tift got one run back when Briggs Benson hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Zeke Dodson, who had reached base on an error.

As bad as the 1st was, the evening grew worse. Veterans had four score in the 2nd, all a result of two-out hits. The big blow was a double by Dugan that drove in two.

Patrick Watson cut the score to 6-2 when he knocked in Reinhardt on a sac fly in the 2nd.

Benson came in to relieve Reinhardt in the 3rd and was replaced by Connor Thomas in the 6th. During that span, the Warhawks added seven more runs, three in the 6th and three more in the 7th. Thomas ultimately picked up the win.

The Devils got two back in the 4th off a Benson home run and Bullard double that drove in Reinhardt.

Reinhardt's four hits, all doubles, were the most of any Blue Devil. Abbott had three and Benson, Bullard and Ross each had two. Abbott also drove in five and stole a base. Three had two RBI: Benson, Reinhardt and Bullard.

Last weekend, Tift added three more wins to their season total, defeating Jefferson 3-2 and 14-4 and Winder-Barrow 7-2. All three games were played at Jefferson. With the win Monday, they are now 7-0.

The region schedule starts Friday at Camden County at 4:30 p.m. They will see Veterans again next Monday in Kathleen.

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