Diamond Devils' comeback just short

Allen Moretz slides safely into third in the third inning. Moretz, who had three hits Saturday, came around to score Tift's first run of the day.

TIFTON — The Tift County Blue Devils scored five runs in the bottom of the seventh Saturday afternoon, but unfortunately it was not enough to top Denmark. The visiting Danes won, 10-9.

The Devils, who had been down as many as seven runs earlier in the contest, sent 11 men to bat in the seventh. The rally started innocently enough on a Cody Williamson single that began the frame.

Bailey Booth followed with a hard hit past third. Denmark got a strikeout, but Tift’s eyes for the strike zone grew much sharper.

The bases filled on a walk to Sam Thompson, then Allen Moretz singled to center, scoring Williamson.

Moretz was followed by Jackson Strickland, whose first RBI of the year was hit that he guided up the middle. The bases were still loaded for Bryce Stephens, who walked to score Thompson. The score was now 10-7.

Tyler Holmes’ sacrifice fly to right inched the Blue Devils closer by bringing home Moretz, who gambled by tagging up three runners, all of which advanced safely. Lino Acosta drew a walk, bringing up Williamson again.

Denmark uncorked a wild pitch and speedster Strickland scored easily. Williamson walked, filling the bases once more.

The Danes were able to buckle down there, Tyler Williams closing it out by forcing Tit to a groundout.

That Tift County came so close was far from the feeling a few innings earlier.

The Blue Devils did not surrender a hit until the third inning, but were already down 1-0 thanks to six walks. Mitigating the walks were Stephens’ five strikeouts.

Denmark found its stroke in the third, Connor McGinn collecting their first hit, one that drove home Drew Clare. The bats picked it up a notch. Francesco Capocci and Jaxson Corr doubled and another hit by Nic Ferrer extended the lead from 1-0 to 6-0.

Tift got three of those runs back in the bottom half.

Moretz and Stephens singled. The bases were loaded for Acosta, who singled sharply off the third baseman’s glove, Moretz coming in. An error off the bat of Williams scored Stephens and Tift picked up one more, Acosta scoring on Booth’s RBI single.

The Danes went right back to work in the fourth. The first four men of the inning scored, the big blow being a two-run error. But Denmark’s hot bats were cooling, thanks to a pitching change.

Gavin Starling became Tift’s third pitcher of the day in the fourth. Not only did he settle the game down, Starling was able to finish it up, throwing four innings.

After the contest, head coach Kyle Kirk was appreciative of what Starling was able to do and what it meant for the team.

“He gave us a shot,” said Kirk.

Starling ended the fourth with a strikeout. Denmark had runners at second and third in the fifth with one out, but Starling coaxed a grounder to Acosta at third, setting up a double play.

Meanwhile, Tift tacked on one more in the fourth.

Moretz singled — he had three hits on the day — and moved around to third on a wild pickoff throw. Strickland earned his first hit of the year driving him in.

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