Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

DAMASCUS -- Disappointment.

It was etched on the faces of the Southwest Georgia Academy baseball players as they walked off their home field Saturday afternoon.

After all, the top-seeded Warriors were stunned after being knocked out of the GISA Class AA State Tournament by No. 4 seed Harvester Christian after losing both games of a doubleheader Saturday.

Expectations were high for the Warriors (15-7), who entered the tournament with a region title and a No. 1 seed for the first time in at least 18 years. But none of that seemed to matter as SGA coach Tommy Manry addressed his team in right field after losing Game 3, 5-3.

"Nobody feels good about what happened," Manry said. "The bottom line is we left way too many men in scoring position. We didn't hit the ball like we normally hit the baseball, and we had two innings of bad defense."

The combination of those miscues gave the Hawks (9-10), who won Game 2, 6-4, a berth in the Elite 8 in their first appearance in the GISA playoffs.

Opportunities presented themselves all day for the Warriors, who left 14 on base and 12 in scoring position in the two games.

But perhaps the failed opportunity that stung the most was in the bottom of the fifth inning in Game 3 when SGA was attempting to stage a late-game comeback after falling behind, 5-2.

After hitting an RBI triple to pull his team to within two runs, Dillon Driver attempted to steal home after the ball was thrown behind him at third base. As the junior neared home plate, Harvester Christian catcher Jacob Finken inched up the third base line.

The two collided moments before the ball reached Finken's glove, forcing both players sprawling to the ground as the ball rolled to the backstop.

"When I saw the catcher, he ran up the baseline," Driver said. "I saw him jump, and I couldn't dodge him so I ran right through him."

Inexplicably to the SGA bench, Driver was called out and then ejected from the game for what the umpire determined was a "malicious" play by the Warrior junior.

"(Driver) is running wide open with his head to the ground, and the catcher comes up 15 feet down the line. The rule book says you can't block the plate without the ball, and (the catcher) is standing there," said Manry, who argued Driver shouldn't have been called out because it would have been impossible for him to evade the catcher without running outside of the base path.

"I said, 'Wo what you are telling me is that the catcher can block the plate 15 feet away from home plate and that runner might as well just take it and walk it into the dugout,'" Manry continued. "(The umpire) said, 'that's right.'"

The call, which took a run off the board for the Warriors and left them without their top pitcher and hitter for the final two innings of the game, still shouldn't have prevented SGA from winning, Manry said after the game.

"I don't blame losing the game on that," he said. "I always told the kids if you get a bad call, you have to be good enough to overcome it. We weren't."

SGA scored three runs in the top of the first inning in Game 2, and it looked as if the Warriors were going to roll to a series sweep against the Hawks. SGA never relinquished that lead until Harvester Christian scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take a 6-5 lead.

Each of those sixth-inning runs were unearned -- a statistic that is uncommon to an SGA squad that Manry said was one of his top defensive teams in his 28 years as head coach of the program.

"We just stunk it up (Saturday)," Manry said about his team's six errors in Game 2 and four errors in Game 3.

Driver threw a complete game in Game 2 and took the mound in the fourth inning of Game 3 before being ejected in the fifth inning. Carson Ray started Game 3 for the Warriors and picked up the loss with three innings of work.

At the plate, SGA tallied a combined 14 hits in the two games. Driver led the Warriors, finishing the day 4-for-6 with two RBI, a triple and a double. Also for SGA, Taylor Tabb was 2-for-6 with an RBI, and Van Harrell was 2-for-5 with two RBI.

With the win, Harvester Christian plays the winner of Gatewood vs. Curtis Baptist on May 13-14.

"It's been like a slow birth for us this year," Harvester Christian coach Barry Williams said. "We just kept battling, and we are finally playing together and finishing games. I think that's what added to our success (Saturday)."