Lee County sophomore catcher Jack Bell drives a ball into the outfield during the Trojans’ GHSA Class AAAA Sweet 16 state playoff series Wednesday in Leesburg against Forsyth Central. Lee County lost Game 1, 2-1, and couldn’t rebound as it lost Game 2, 5-4. (Larry G. Williams/Special to The Herald)
LEESBURG – Forsyth Central’s Andrew Gist and David Bermudez were pulling the strings Wednesday to make sure Lee County’s bats stayed off balance in Round 2 of the GHSA Class AAAA state baseball playoffs.
Gist and Bermudez held Lee County to five runs and eight hits in two games, sweeping the Trojans out of the Sweet 16, 2-1, in Game 1 and 5-4 and in the nightcap.
Gist's changeup was masterful in a complete game win in the opener and Bermudez struck out 11 in five innings for a Bulldogs win in Game 2 to send Forsyth Central to the quarterfinals for the first time in a long time.
“Both those guys have been solid for us,” Forsyth Central head coach Kevin McCollum said. “I’ve got a good group of kids who enjoy playing the game. I think our success stems from that.”
Lee County (20-9) managed just eight hits in two games and failed to advance past the second round for the fourth straight season.
“Their pitching really kept us off balance all night, throwing off-speed for strikes,” Lee County head coach Rob Williams said.
Region 1-AAAA’s top-seeded Trojans got one run off Gist in the fourth inning of Game 1 on Jess Posey's RBI single, but that was all Lee could manage. Gist struck out six and has allowed just two runs in 14 innings of playoff baseball in sweeps of Winder-Barrow and now Lee County.
Posey (7-1) suffered his first loss of the season, but he was solid in seven innings of work, scattering eight hits and striking out five.
“Jess deserved a better fate,” Williams said. “We just didn’t get enough hits. (Posey) coming back form a tough year last year (after missing nearly the entire season due to a back injury), you’ve got to be proud of that.”
Matt Mears led the way with two hits in the Game 1 loss for Lee County.
After trailing, 5-2, in the seventh inning of Game 2, Lee rallied to cut it to 5-4 on run-scoring hits by UGA signee Daniel Nichols and Posey. With the tying run on first, Bulldogs reliever Daniel Bermudez finished off Lee County with a strikeout and flyout.
Lee County led Game 2, 1-0, heading into the fourth inning behind starter Chris Mosley before the Bulldogs (22-7-1, Region 7-AAAA No. 3 seed) scored four runs with two outs in the bottom of the fourth. One run scored on a wild pitch with the bases loaded, two runs came across on a slow roller that Michael Benigan beat out for a hit and Daniel Bermudez capped it off with an RBI single.
“We just couldn’t get them to hit a ball at us,” Williams said.
Daniel Bermudez finished with three RBI in the series to lead the Bulldogs, who advance to the quarterfinals to face the Alexander-Whitewater winner. That series was rained out Wednesday and will be played today.
Posey, who will walk on at the University of Georgia to pitch, finished with two RBI in the finale while Nichols reached in all four plate appearances after being walked and hit twice.
The Trojans lose seniors Mark Fowler, Pedro Cruz, Jay Howell, Luke Roland, Posey and Nichols.
“Some of them are going to be Bulldogs and some of them may be Bears at Mercer, but they will always be Trojans first,” Williams said of his senior class.
Rain in the area pushed Game 1 back two hours and the nightcap almost didn’t happen. The GHSA was called after the opener was completed in less than two hours and it decided to go ahead and start Game 2 after 9 p.m.
Williams credited the school’s maintenance staff for getting the field in playable condition after it was nearly underwater early in the afternoon.