TIFTON — If high school baseball games lasted six innings, Zack Bullard would have had a no-hitter and the Tift County Blue Devils would have been on top of the region standings. It was the last inning that cost both player and team. Coffee only had one hit, but it was all they needed for a 2-1 victory that clinched the 1-AAAAAA title.
Bullard had been effective all game. In addition to the hitless streak he was working, only two runners had been in scoring position.
It was a hit that started Coffee in the bottom of the 7th, albeit a hit by pitch. Walker Caves was plunked. Bullard coaxed Wyatt Miller into a fly to left, but the game began unraveling on the next hitter.
Pinch hitter Reed Gilbert poked the ball to short. In his haste to try to turn two, Ryan Ross couldn't find the handle on the ball and everyone was safe. With Brant Garrett running for Caves and Kason Jump running for Gilbert, Coffee sent another substitution up to the plate, Tavish Douglas.
Douglas found a pitch to handle and hit it into the gap. Garrett scored and Jump went to third. The Trojans now had a hit, and with one out were in prime position. They wasted no time.
Coach Kyle Kirk brought in Alex Abbott to relieve Bullard. The first man he saw was Will Souther. Souther hit a fly to right. It was deep enough and Jump crossed the plate ahead of Patrick Watson's throw.
Tift did not have much luck at the plate themselves.
Like Coffee, their lone run started with a hit by pitch. Ross was the man struck to start the 4th. He stole second and was still there after a flyout. Alex Abbott was intentionally put on base. The two started a double steal and like in the first game, the throw — this time to third — went into the outfield. Ross scored. Abbott went to third but a popout and a soft hit to the mound ended that.