CORDELE -- Douglas Nobles was pitching the game of his life -- and then he took what Westwood coach Al Timmerman would later call a "shot to the gut."
The first six innings of Thursday's GISA Class A State Championship opener couldn't have gone much better for Nobles and his Westwood Wildcats. The junior hurler was pitching a no-hitter and was three outs away from winning Game 1 of the best-of-three series against host Crisp Academy.
But then the seventh inning happened.
Crisp busted Nobles' no-hit bid when Patrick Fay led off the inning with a single, which was followed by a Jordan Howard double.
Chandler Bowen then singled to bring in Fay, and Jeffery Wessel hit a sacrifice fly to score Howard, giving Crisp a thrilling 2-1 win in Game 1.
"I told the guys that was just like a big kick in the stomach," Timmerman said.
Crisp took its momentum from Game 1 and opened up a 9-0 lead in Game 2, which was postponed due to lightning in the area. Game 2 will pick up in the top of the fifth inning at 10:30 a.m. today with Crisp (17-7) leading Westwood (18-5), 9-1.
Standing in the light drizzle after Game 2 was officially postponed late Thursday, Timmerman talked about how demoralizing the end of the opening game was.
"Our objective in this playoff series was to get Game 1, and we had Game 1 within our grasp," he said. "It was there, and all of a sudden it was snatched away. It kind of deflated our momentum a great deal."
And Westwood's momentum was soaring throughout much of Game 1 thanks to the arm of Nobles, who entered the game with a postseason record of 2-0, including a no-hitter in the state semifinal against Memorial Day.
Nobles cruised through the first four innings, allowing just two batters to reach base -- both of whom were stranded at second after getting hit by a pitch. Nobles' early-game dominance included a stretch in which he struck out six of seven batters. He ended the game with nine strikeouts.
The junior's control started to waver in the fifth inning, but he righted the ship by stranding two runners in the fifth and retiring three straight in the sixth.
Westwood's only run came in the third inning when Caleb Morrell hit an RBI double, scoring Mason Worsham, who led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch and stealing second base. Worsham, who also had a single in the first inning, was the only Westwood player to get a hit in Game 1 against Crisp pitchers Fay -- who started and threw the first six innings -- and Howard.
Going into the seventh inning, Crisp coach Brett Freeman told his players to keep the pressure on Nobles, who he thought was tiring on the mound.
"Douglas had lost a little bit of velocity, but he still had a no-hitter going," Freeman said. "We hadn't found anything that could help us. We hit the ball, but we hit it hard right at people."
Nobles later said that his legs were tired, but he thought he had what it took to give his team its 10th straight win.
"I knew what I had to do to close it," he said after Game 2 was postponed. "I just couldn't do it. I put everything I had out there."
The 40 minutes between games did little to cool Crisp's hot bats. The host Wildcats rattled off seven hits and nine runs in the first two innings of Game 2, putting a demoralized Westwood team into an even deeper hole.
"You could see the carry over to Game 2, coming out and scoring five runs in the first inning," Freeman said. "We fed off of the end of Game 1."
Morrell started Game 2 for Westwood but was relieved by senior Jake Edore in the third inning. Edore pitched 2 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball before lightning filled the sky and caused a three-hour delay that ultimately turned into an overnight delay.
At 8:30 p.m. -- six-and-a-half hours after Game 1 started -- coaches and umpires decided to postpone play until today. It was a decision that both head coaches said will help their teams refocus.
And for Timmerman, whose team now has nine outs to score eight runs and avoid being swept, one more day gives his kids a chance to regroup and forget about Game 1.
"Our guys are battlers," Timmerman said. "We are going to refocus and come back (today). I told them it's a three-inning ball game (today). That's basically what we have to do. We have a hill to climb, but at least we have a chance. We are going to do what we can to climb it."
If Westwood wins Game 2, a winner-take-all Game 3 will be played at 1 p.m. today in Cordele.