Darton’s Parker Nix, left, beats the throw into second base Tuesday as West Georgia’s Dusty Davis bobbles the throw. Nix finished the day 2-for-6 with an RBI and two stolen bases, but it came in a loss for the previously red-hot Cavs, who fell, 7-6, in 12 innings, snapping a nine-game winning streak. (email@example.com)
ALBANY — Darton’s nine-game winning streak and perfect Region XVII record wasn’t going to go down without a fight.
The Cavs came up with timely two-out hits and clutch pitching to claw their way back into Tuesday’s game against West Georgia Tech time and again — but in the 12th inning, they finally ran out of comebacks.
West Georgia Tech’s Corey Adkins scored the go-ahead run in the top of the 12th on a Cody Wofford error, and the visiting Knights held off Darton, 7-6.
“This team has done this all year. We have been resilient and fought back, and we did that again (Tuesday),” Darton coach Scot Hemmings said. “There was a reason we had won 13 of 14, because they never quit playing hard. They play hard all the time.”
Darton ace and former Lee County star Matt Aldrich and West Georgia Tech’s Brad Bartlett started the game on the mound — an intriguing matchup given that Bartlett started the fall season on Darton’s pitching staff before being kicked off the squad for breaking team rules.
Both starters sat comfortably on the bench as the teams traded the lead back and forth in the final innings.
Bartlett’s new squad got the best of the Cavs (21-8, 8-1), but the teams will meet up again soon for a three-game series this weekend in Carrollton.
“There was a little (extra motivation playing Darton). It was intense sitting in the dugout watching (the end of the game),” said Bartlett, a freshman from LaGrange. “I never pictured myself pitching against Darton, but I’m over at West Georgia Tech now, and I am comfortable here.”
West Georgia Tech took a 2-0 lead in the second inning and held Darton scoreless until the Cavs took a 4-2 lead in the seventh inning. Then things really got interesting in the ninth inning.
With a complete game on his mind, Aldrich took the mound in the ninth with a two-run lead. Aldrich, who leads the NJCAA in strikeouts, was his usual self Tuesday, finishing with 12 strikeouts and allowing just four hits.
But in the ninth he walked two of the first three batters, then had a chance to start a game-ending double play when Dusty Davis hit a sharp grounder right back to him. But instead of taking his time, Aldrich rushed his throw to second and tossed the ball into centerfield, giving West Georgia Tech new life.
“It definitely was a routine play,” Aldrich said. “I got the ball, and I didn’t shuffle my feet or take my time. I was looking at the second baseman when I was supposed to be looking at the shortstop, and I just rushed things.”
West Georgia Tech scored on the error and again on a sac fly to send the game into extra innings. The Knights put up two runs in the top of the 10th and had the Cavs down to their last out in the bottom of the inning before Casey James reached on a walk and Russell Melton and Davis Knapp reached on errors, followed by an Evan Carr two-run single that tied the game.
Darton loaded the bases in the bottom of the 12th, but a Bryant Alonso line drive straight to the left fielder ended the game and the Cavs’ winning streak.
“I guess we need to get back to doing the little things right,” a disappointed Aldrich said after the game. “Little plays like turning a double play, we do that in practice every day. It’s kind of good thing — not that we lost but now we know we can be beat. It will make us push harder.”
West Georgia Tech, which is in its first year in Region XVII and doesn’t award athletic scholarships, improved to 12-15 overall and 5-4 in the region.
“Coming in here and battling with a team like that and to pull a close one out was nice,” West Georgia Tech coach Todd Pratt said. “We really persevered (Tuesday).”
Andrew Crumbley pitched the final three innings for Darton and shouldered the loss, while Bryan Turner pitched the 11th and 12th innings for the Knights and got the win.
Parker Nix, Melton and Knapp all finished with two hits for the Cavs, who racked up 13 singles but no extra-base hits.