Shock and awe: No. 1 seed Rams swept at home

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

SYLVESTER -- It wasn't supposed to end like this.

But Worth County's baseball team learned a valuable lesson Friday in its GHSA Class AAA opening round state tournament series here against Rutland: If you are going to advance in the state playoffs, you not only need to pitch -- you also need to hit.

Unfortunately for Rams fans, Worth did neither.

Worth sent six total pitchers to the hill in the twin bill against the visiting Hurricanes, who countered with just two in cruising to an 8-2 win in the opener and a 12-2 rout in the deciding game as Rutland eliminated Worth -- which was hosting as region champs for just the second time in 50 years -- from the state playoffs far earlier than anyone in Sylvester expected.

Rutland outhit Worth, 18-7, in the contests, and the Hurricanes saw their pitching combo of Austin Torrey and Blake Shouse notch 16 strikeouts to Worth's eight. Oh, yeah, then there was this stat: Worth committed five errors in the final game to end the Rams' state title dreams -- at least for this season.

"Their pitching staff was as good as advertised," Worth Coach Will Smith said after his squad closed its season at 14-14. "We knew they had three quality pitchers, but they only had to use two of them."

Worth burned through every arm on its pitching staff. Corey Odom started the opener and lasted 4 1/3 as Rutland broke open a 1-0 game with a 4-run inning to take a 5-1 lead into the sixth. Two more Worth pitchers entered but failed to stem the Hurricanes' onslaught.

In Game 2, Worth Ace Allen Fender was chased after just 1 1/3 innings after a seven-run second inning.

The Rams used two more pitchers but could not stop the bleeding. Freshman Eli Reddell pitched the final five outs of the game, which was halted by mercy rule with one out in the fifth when Rutland reached the magical 10-run lead.

"The difference in the game was (Rutland) got the hits when they needed to and we did not," Smith said. "I know this sucks right now, but (Friday) does not define us as a team. We won 14 games, we are the region champs. I am proud of our seniors from top to bottom. They provided us with leadership in the clubhouse, even if all of them did not contribute on the field.

"I am proud of the way our kids represented our program on and off the field. Like I said before, these two games do not define us."

Smith said the Rams, playing in their first state playoff game since 2005 -- when they last won region (although the last title before that was 1959) -- were not nervous or jittery.

"They were actually very calm coming into the game," Smith said. "They were very relaxed. That wasn't the problem. I had this plan for how we were going to play the game once we got the lead. But we never got our bats going. The problem was we never had a lead to play with."

Prior to the game, Rutland supporters had been talking trash on Internet message boards, boasting about doing exactly what happened Friday night.

Rutland coach Wally Pritchard wasn't buying it after the game.

"It's easy to sit behind a keyboard and talk anonymous crap," Pritchard said. "I've always told my team to do their talking on the field."

And that's exactly what the Hurricanes did Friday night.