CORDELE -- As much as Westwood baseball coach Al Timmerman hated to admit it, the GISA Class A State Championship wasn't decided after Friday's 14-4 loss in Game 2 to Crisp Academy.
It was decided the day before.
That's when the Wildcats of Cordele broke up a no-hitter by the Wildcats of Camilla in the bottom of the seventh inning to score two heart-wrenching, confidence-deflating and momentum-stealing runs to win Game 1, 2-1, on Thursday.
"Well ..." said Timmerman, searching for the right words, "ol' Uncle Mo jumped to the other dugout (after Game 1) -- and he never came back."
And with that, Crisp Academy is your new state champs.
Crisp Academy -- last year's state runner-up to Citizen's Christian -- found redemption Friday by closing out Westwood over the final three innings after Game 2 was halted Thursday due to severe weather in the top of the fifth inning. Crisp was leading, 9-1, and the result seemed inevitable. The Wildcats of Cordele returned Friday and scored one run in the top of the fifth to go ahead 10-1, then retired the Wildcats of Camilla in just four batters, once again stealing the wind right out of Westwood's sails.
"Them scoring a run and us not getting anything going was definitely a tough way to start after we drove up on the bus Friday feeling good, loose and ready," Timmerman said. "We kept telling ourselves that we weren't coming back to play three innings -- we were coming back to play 10 (and force a Game 3). We were hoping for a little spark right off the bat, and it didn't happen."
Host Crisp -- which was the away team in Game 2, per GISA rules -- then came back and scored four more runs in the top of the seventh, and by the time Westwood's bats woke up in the bottom of the seventh, scoring three runs, it was too little, too late.
And when the final out came, the celebration was on in Cordele.
"It's an exciting feeling," jubilant third-year Crisp coach Brett Freeman told The Cordele Dispatch in between accepting words of congratulations from equally ecstatic school supporters and fulfilling requests for photos and interviews. "I'm happy for -- and couldn't be any prouder of -- these guys and the job they did."
Crisp slugger Robbie Wright had a double and two singles and J.T. Carter clubbed a homer in Game 2 as the Wildcats pounded out 16 hits in the win, while James Bodrey kept Westwood at bay on the mound to earn the title-clinching victory.
Freeman had to be thrilled the two teams didn't head to a Game 3 on Friday and instead took care of it in two. Crisp won Game 1 against Citizen's a year ago, then dropped two in a row, settling for the runners-up trophy.
Not this time.
"By coming back to win (Game 1 on Thursday) like we did, I think we pretty much had the second one won as well," Freeman told The Dispatch, referring to the opener of the series which saw Crisp get no-hit through six innings by Westwood ace Douglas Nobles, only to break up the no-no just in time by scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh for a thrilling 2-1 win. "When we beat their ace and No. 1 guy (Nobles), I think they had some doubt creep into their minds as to whether or not they could beat us.
"On the other hand, we not only had the momentum but also a ton of confidence. When we jumped out to the big lead in the first two innings (of Game 2), it was obvious we had them on the ropes."
Timmerman knew it, and so did his guys, but the resilient Wildcats had been on the ropes before this season -- and had prevailed time and again.
"We'd been battling all year. I tried to pull out all the stops (in my speech to them after that deflating Game 1 loss) and I just reminded them that we can still win this thing," the 10th-year Westwood coach said. "I tried to hammer home the notion that the winner of the state title has to win two games, and we could still do it."
The hope was alive for a moment in the final inning of Game 2 when Caleb Morrell, Jake Edore, Nobles, Mitch Good and Alex Chambless strung together a series of singles that scored three runs, but when Crisp recorded the final out, it slammed the door shut on the Wildcats' hopes of winning the school's second state title. The first, and still the only, came in 1998, while Crisp won its first Friday since the school opened its doors in 1967.
"Things weren't looking very good for us in the late going (of Game 1) but I never gave up hope we'd come back and win," Freeman told The Dispatch. "With it being a one-run game, I knew with the bats we have in our line-up (that) we were only a swing away from a tie."
And now they're state champs, while Westwood will have to wait another year.
"We'll be back," Timmerman said of his program, which finished 18-6 and loses just one senior, Jake Edore, while Crisp ends its 2011 campaign at 18-7, closing it on a nine-game win streak. "I told all my kids after the game as we watched Crisp celebrate across the field to look over there and remember what this feels like.
"I said, 'They're doing what champions do, and there's no reason we can't come back next year and have that be us.' "
Cordele Dispatch sports editor Harvey Simpson contributed to this report