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May 2, 2014

Tift terrorizes Tri-Cities in sweep

Blue Devils win games 10-0 and 18-0

TIFTON — If every state baseball playoff series was like this, the Tift County Blue Devils and their fans would likely be quite thrilled. Taking on a team of overmatched Tri-Cities Bulldogs Friday, they pounded out 28 runs in two games over a combined 9 innings, while only allowing two hits and no runs. They won 10-0 in six innings in game one and 18-0 in just three to win the nightcap.

Tri-Cities was the No. 3 seed out of 3-AAAAAA to Tift's No. 2 from Region 1 and looked to be on even ground for a split second. They were retired in their half of the first in game one by Deviner McCray but Antwan Booker sat down the first two men he faced in the bottom half of the inning. Then disaster struck, which would be a recurring theme all night for the Bulldogs.

Briggs Benson became the first baserunner on an error by the second baseman. With Alex Abbott at the plate, he was balked to second, then third. As Abbott walked, another miscue sent Abbott running for second and Benson towards the plate for the game's first run. Zack Bullard walked and he was followed by Will Reinhardt, who smacked a single to score Abbott and make it a 2-0 contest.

Tift was quiet for the next two innings. Then came the 4th.

McCray singled. Connor Thomas took over as his courtesy runner and stole second. He advanced to third on a single by Blake Suggs and both of them came around on a Benson double.

Up 4-0, they started the 5th with a bang on a leadoff homer by Abbott. Bullard singled, but without benefit of a hit he went to third on the combination of a bad throw by Booker to first and a wild pitch. Le Bassett then walked. Consecutive squeeze bunts by Ryan Ross and McCray not only led to two runs, but both batters being safe when Tri-Cities could not come up with either.

A balk sent both Ross and McCray up 90 feet to second and third before an errant throw back to the mound by the catcher allowed Ross to sneak home. Suggs singled to drive in another.

Tift came into their half of the 6th up 9-0 and needing only one more to end the game early.

They got just that. Abbott flew out, but Bullard walked. Another flyout meant two men were down, but Bassett singled and Ross was hit by a pitch to load the bags. Thomas, who had relieved McCray in the 6th, worked a walk to bring in Bullard and end the game.

In the second game, Tift had seven in the 1st, three in the 2nd and eight in the 3rd before the game was ended by the mercy rule.

The Bulldogs were in trouble from the start of the sequel. Naim Williams had trouble finding the plate and when he did, the balls were usually knocked out of reach.

He walked Dodson in the 1st, gave up consecutive singles to Suggs and Benson, then walked Abbott and Bullard. Bassett singled to be the sixth straight man to make it on base. In that span they had four runs and two men on which signaled the end of the night for Naim Williams. He was replaced by Dominic Francis, who promptly uncorked two wild pitches to bring home another run.

Francis would get outs from the first two men he saw, the second a grounder by Ross that scored another run. But with the bases empty, Jonah Reyes singled, Dodson walked and a dropped ball by the centerfielder scored another. Francis got a flyout to end the frame and put the Devils up 7-0 before Tri-Cities had even come to the plate.

Bullard promptly greeted the opposition with three straight strikeouts. He would pitch two innings of one-hit ball before exiting during the penultimate 3rd.

After sending 12 men to the plate in the 1st, they sent eight in the 2nd. Abbott led off with a single, but was erased on a fielder's choice off Bullard's bat. With Will Boothe running, Bassett walked. Christian Avant then doubled to drive in one and was followed by a single by Ross to score Boothe. Avant came around on a sacrifice fly by Dodson.

Tri-Cities got two fairly quick outs in the 3rd with no runs scoring before the bottom fell out. Two men were on when Avant singled to drive in one. That would be the start of a string of nine straight making it on base.

Adam Spurlin, the first of many subs in the inning, walked to load the bases. Reyes was plunked and Dodson walked to bring in two. Francis was lifted for DeMario Boykins, who was greeted by a two-run single from Suggs to make it 16-0. David Craft walked and his courtesy runner, Johnson, scored on McCray's pinch hit double, which also brought in Suggs. Joseph Watson singled and Patrick Watson walked, but Avant popped out to end the scoring melee.

Joseph Watson came on in relief and recorded the final three outs to seal the win.

So complete was Tift County's success that out of 16 men who went up to the plate during the two games, only two did not score. Josh Gems singled for the lone hit in the first game and DeMario Williams had the lone Bulldog hit in game two, a double.

Suggs and McCray had four hits each over the two games. All six of Bullard’s outs in the second game were via strikeout. McCray had nine in the opener.

Tift will face Kennesaw Mountain in the second round on the road, according to the GHSA’s brackets.. The first two games are scheduled for Wednesday.

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Jensen Rainey (left) and Josie Arant will both be participating in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship next week in North Carolina.

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