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Tattnall routs DWS in Game 1 of Elite 8 series, 11-4

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Banks Kinslow figures it's going to take a big breakfast.

"Eggs, grits, bacon ... no waffles,'' Kinslow said.

Michael Matthews is going the other route.

"I'll just grab a Pop Tart,'' he said.

They're planning more than meals at Deerfield Windsor, where the Knights are literally up against the Square today (forget that old up-against-the-wall cliche -- this is DWS vs. Tattnall Square, a rivalry that goes beyond any walled boundaries).

The DWS kids know all too well what they have to do this morning. Shortly after Pop Tarts and bacon and eggs, they'll have to scramble for their lives in a 10 a.m. start to Game 2 after losing Game 1 on Friday, 11-4.

DWS' season could end in a loss today to Tattnall, which made it look all too easy Friday night.

The Trojans hammered Deerfield and they did it without even pitching phenom DeAndre Smelter, whose fastball has been clocked in the 90s and whose future has few limits. They're already talking about this kid becoming a possible first-round pick in the upcoming June MLB Draft.

At DWS, they're just talking about beating him.

"We beat him last year, so we're not scared,'' said Kinslow, who will be at shortstop in Game 2 today, then on the mound if they need a third game to decide the best-of-three series. The winner advances to the GISA Class AAA Final Four. That's the round Tattnall knocked off DWS last year. Two years ago it was in the state final.

"I don't think we have their number,'' said Tattnall Square coach Joey Hiller, whose program has won the last two state titles. "I just think we come to play hard every time we have a baseball game.''

But the kids know its a rivalry, and so do the fans. That's why it was packed at DWS on Friday night, where the Knights took a 2-1 lead in the first inning -- and then Tattnall pitcher Grant Nicholson took everything else.

Don't blame Nicholson for throwing a gem (remember, Smelter didn't throw a pitch). He's trying to wrap this series up early. His brother, Matthew, is getting married at 4 p.m. today in Cairo, and Nicholson wants to be there to throw some rice.

If he does, the rice will probably hit the strike zone because just about everything he threw Friday night did. He gave up only one earned run on five hits, but three of those came in the final innings after Tattnall had built a 8-1 lead. Nicholson, ironically, is also 8-1 now after striking out four and walking two.

He knows there's a rivalry. And he knows just how sweet this win was for Tattnall Square.

"It's beautiful,'' he said.

Hiller wouldn't say if Smelter would pitch the 10 a.m. game or not.

"I bet he pitches one of them,'' DWS coach Rod Murray said. "We didn't know who they would pitch (Friday) and they didn't know who we would pitch, so there's some cat and mouse going on. But the bottom line is we just got beat. The Nicholson kid is a very good pitcher. And it's not like this was his maiden voyage. He made quality pitches and we struggled at the plate.''

Now it's a sweep today -- or else pack up the balls and bats for Deerfield.

"Our kids have been in this situation before. They know it takes two games to win it now,'' Murray said. "I think they will come out hungry and ready to compete.''

Friday's game got away from DWS starter Chris Moates in the third when Ryan Mosley hit a bases-loaded high chopper over third to bring in two runs. One out later, Tanner Smith ripped an RBI single to highlight a four-run inning that lifted Tattnall to a 5-2 lead. Nicholson singled to open the fourth and Ryan Bartholomew picked May 14 to hit his first homer of the year. Moates left after six innings, having given up nine hits.

Rhett Cooper had an RBI single in the first and Gil Gillispie had an RBI single in the sixth, and Davis Moore had an RBI groundout in the first, but that was about it for the Knights, who had one extra base hit -- a double by Moore in the seventh.

Now they have to hit against Smelter, who reached base five times, scored three times and took away at least two hits with his glove at shortstop.

"He's a great pitcher, but we know we have to beat him,'' said Matthews, a senior second baseman who stars in basketball, football and baseball at DWS. "We know what we have to do. I'm confident. I think we'll come out ready to play.''

So does Kinslow -- another three-sport star.

"We're going to do it,'' he said. "And we won't be worried (about breakfast or dinner). We won't have dinner. We'll be out here (Saturday night) practicing getting ready for state.''