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GISA STATE BASEBALL PLAYOFF ROUNDUP: DWS swept; Randolph Southern falls in Game 3

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Deerfield-Windsor head coach Rod Murray doesn't think Tattnall Square's baseball team has gotten in his squad's head.

But whatever the Trojans have on the Knights, they need to bottle and sell it.

For the third consecutive year on the road in the playoffs, Tattnall knocked Deerfield-Windsor out of the GISA Class AAA state tournament, this time with a 2-1 pitcher's duel win in Game 2 of the series Saturday.

"I think what you've got is two good baseball programs that match up in the playoffs consistently," Murray said. "The last couple of series have been phenomenal. It's just a matter of time before we bust through."

Each year Tattnall has eliminated Deerfield a series earlier than the past season and improved to 6-1 in Albany during the last three playoff series. Two years ago, the Trojans (17-10) won in two games for the state title. Last year, it took three games to get past the Knights in the Final Four. This year, Deerfield's season ended even earlier in the quarterfinals because Tattnall finished as the No. 2 seed in its region and had to travel in Round 2.

Either way, Trojans coach Joey Hiller has come to expect a trip South each May.

"Fate has us coming down to Albany, Georgia," Hiller said. "It's two programs that have a lot of respect for each other. I don't know. We may have played a little bit above our heads this weekend."

A lot of the last three years had to do with a hard-throwing righthander who is finally a senior. Tattnall's DeAndre Smelter struck out seven of the first 10 hitters he faced and finished with 11 strikeouts, while several Major League Baseball scouts sat behind home plate with radar guns that consistently flashed 90 to 95 MPH on Smelter's fastball.

Smelter wasn't unhittable, though.

Deerfield (17-6) collected seven hits and, after trailing 2-0, got on the board in the seventh when a throwing error on Michael Matthews' grounder allowed Harris Webb to score. Banks Kinslow, who went 3-for-4, followed with a single and Davis Moore's infield hit loaded the bases with two outs.

Smelter then induced a ground out to end the game, leaving the Knights with 11 runners stranded on the day.

"We couldn't come through (Saturday) with a timely hit when we needed it," Murray said.

Smelter, a Georgia Tech signee who is projected to be an early round selection in June's MLB draft, threw 125 pitches in a complete-game effort, allowing an unearned run with four walks.

"That was an awesome game," Knights junior Rhett Cooper said. "That's what makes baseball fun is having games like that."

Cooper nearly matched Smelter on the mound for the Knights, giving up seven hits in six innings of work. His only blemish came in the third inning when Tattnall's Ryan Bartholomew hit his second homer of the series and Ryan Mosley followed with a single to score Hunter Wilkinson for a 2-0 lead.

Bartholomew, who hadn't homered all year, picked a huge time to start slugging. His first home run Friday helped the Trojans blow open Game 1 en route an 11-4 rout.

"He's hit the ball really well (all year)," Hiller said. "He just finally got under a couple."

While Tattnall advances to the Final Four in search of its third straight state title, Deerfield was left wondering what it has to do to get past the Trojans.

"Tattnall always gets hot in the playoffs," Cooper said. "They play their best in the playoffs."

Kinslow was one of two Knights batters with multiple hits, including Moore, who went 2-for-4. Gil Gillespie, meanwhile, went 1-for-2 with two walks.

Deerfield, which expects to return seven juniors off this year's team, also loses two seniors -- Matthews, who has set the table for years as the Knights' leadoff hitter, and first baseman Reece Kinney.

"We're really going to miss both those guys," Murray said.