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Trojans out of state playoffs as Williams denied career win No. 500

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

LEESBURG -- The offensive fireworks that most expected in the Lee County-Jones County playoff series finally came Saturday.

Only one team, however, took part in it.

Jones County erupted for 10 runs in the deciding Game 3 of the GHSA Class AAAA state baseball playoffs to end Lee County's season in the first round, 10-1.

After the two teams split pitching duels Friday, Jones sent out a seldom-used sophomore pitcher Saturday who shut the Trojans' offense down and sent them home early. It marked the second time in three years Lee County, a No. 1 seed, has lost to a four seed in the first round.

"They just took it to us from the get-go," said Trojans coach Rob Williams, who is stuck on 499 career wins. "They jumped out early, which we were hoping we could do, and we just couldn't string enough hits together."

Jones County (22-6) was no normal No. 4 seed, though. The Greyhounds lost one key region game during the season that sent them from a No. 1 seed to a four seed in the state playoffs.

Sophomore pitcher Brandon Spivey, who started just his third game of the year Saturday, limited Lee to six hits, struck out three and walked one in a complete-game effort.

"He was fantastic," Jones County coach Barry Veal said of Spivey. "We got help because Lee County got into a little bit of a slump. They're too good a hitting team. I don't foresee anybody we play being as good as Lee. They just went into a funk hitting."

Jones County grabbed a 3-0 lead in the first off Trojans starter Justin Walker, which included a two-run double by Cole Thompson. Lee County's Chase Griffin had a RBI single in the third that cut the lead to 4-1, but the Greyhounds came back with three in the fourth, two of which came on Coleman Greene's double.

Greene picked up his fourth RBI of the day with another two-run double in the fifth that made it 10-1 and all but ended the series. Jones had 12 hits and put 12 more runners on base by either a walk, hit batter or error.

"If we had to go to a Game 3, we knew it was going to be a struggle," Williams said. "The young men we ran out there gave the best effort and as long as they do that, you can be proud of it."

The Trojans (16-12), meanwhile, didn't get any breaks and didn't help themselves, either. They committed three errors, got thrown out trying to stretch a double into a single and hit several balls hard that turned into double plays.

Lee County's Chase Patrick, who missed part of his junior year with a shoulder injury that needed surgery, re-injured the shoulder on a diving defensive play in the fourth inning. Patrick, who led Lee with seven homers this year, is one of eight seniors the Trojans will lose, along with Georgia Southern signee Chase Griffin, starting pitcher Cole Goodwin, starting pitcher Chase Burnfin, first baseman Ryan Horne, pitcher Walker, pitcher Tanner Stone and outfielder Peyton Wade.

"You look back and you remember them coming in as little ol' starry-eyed ninth graders," Williams said of his seniors. "They leave here, hopefully they know a little more about the game. They're a credit to themselves, their families, this school and the community."

Williams, meanwhile, will need a 24th season as head coach to pick up that milestone 500th win. The long-time coach, though, was more worried about advancing to round two.

"It'll come as long as the good Lord lets me hang around," Williams said of winning 500 games. "The important thing was getting to the next round."

Veal, for one, hopes he comes back to get No. 500. Jones County's 18-year veteran coach has been a friend of Williams' even though they've battled on the field for years.

"When we came down here I told (Williams) I hate to be here," Veal said. "And he told me, 'I hate seeing you, too.' I've got a lot of respect for Rob."

Of course, there's still plenty of talent for 2012 in Leesburg. Walking off the field for the final time this season, sophomore Daniel Nichols, who hit over .400 and was co-leader with 27 RBI, looked over his shoulder and said, "We'll be back."