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Lee County sweeps, heads to state playoffs

Photo by Mike Phillips

Photo by Mike Phillips

LEESBURG -- The pressure was on Lee County Friday.

It was either win or go home in the region playoffs, but you couldn't tell it. The laid back Trojans laid out Northside, Columbus, 16-7, in Game 1 of a three-game region playoff series and then swept the Patriots with a 4-2 win on the strength of Chase Burnfin's gem in Game 2 to clinch a state playoff invite.

"It didn't look like a lot (of pressure) was on them," Lee County head coach Rob Williams said. "Coming in here you're the number one seed and you know how quickly it can end."

After a slow start to the season, the Trojans (15-10) won seven of their last eight region games to emerge as the top seed from Region 1-AAAA and will host a No. 4 seed, likely Jones County, Friday in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAA state playoffs.

"We knew (we had a playoff-caliber team)," said Trojans senior Chase Patrick, who hit two solo homers Friday in the two-game sweep of Northside, Columbus

. "We just had to find the right lineup and once we did we started hitting the ball. I think we all played like it was the state playoffs. We wanted to win this one just as bad as we want to win the next one. We've got to be like that the rest of the way."

Patrick led the onslaught in the opener, but Burnfin (6-3) limited the Patriots to just four hits in the nightcap to clinch the Trojans playoff berth. He allowed two runs and struck out three against a Northside, Columbus team that had beaten Lee County, 5-2, earlier in the season.

"We knew we were the better team headed in and we did some damage," Burnfin said. "I had a lot of rest before this game and I had good defense behind me the whole game."

Lee County trailed, 2-1, in the fourth of Game 2 before Mark Fowler stroked a two-run double to give the Trojans the lead for good.

Fowler, who had been in a four-wheeler accident during spring break, hadn't played in nearly two weeks and came through in the clutch.

Jimmy Shiver, who went 2-for-2 in the second game, added an RBI single in the fourth and handed Burnfin a 4-2 lead. The Trojans senior pitcher didn't allow a hit in the final three innings.

"(Burnfin) had to be real efficient with his fastball and he was," Williams said.

Northside, Columbus (7-16) committed four errors in Game 1 and Lee County made them pay with nine runs in the second and third innings to take an 11-2 lead. Patrick scored five runs in the game and went 3-for-4. He homered in both games going a combined 4-for-7 at the plate.

Cole Goodwin picked up the win despite allowing seven runs in seven innings. He threw well over 100 pitches in the complete-game effort and gave up 13 hits while striking out five.

"We got out to a nice lead (in Game 1)," Williams said. "Cole gave us some runs, but he did a nice job. He wouldn't let them have the big inning like we were getting. They made some mistakes and we made them pay for it."

Daniel Nichols went 3-for-4 with four RBI, including a two-run homer, in the first game to go along with three runs scored. Pedro Cruz added three RBI and three runs, while Chase Griffin, Nate Gay and Justin Walker drove in two runs in the slugfest.

Grayson Dyer had four hits Friday to lead the Patriots. Chad Pigg was 1-for-3 with two RBI and Will Fuller went 3-for-4 in the opener. Rhett Jones was the hard-luck loser in Game 2 after pitching 5 2/3 innings, allowing just six hits.