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GISA CLASS A FINAL FOUR: Westwood crushes DEA in Game 1 of playoff series, 11-1

Georgia Southern signee Douglas Nobles was nearly unstoppable Friday in Game 1 as he not only struck out nine and allowed just three hits, but he also hit a homer in Westwood’s 11-1 win. (Westwood School/Special to The Herald)

Georgia Southern signee Douglas Nobles was nearly unstoppable Friday in Game 1 as he not only struck out nine and allowed just three hits, but he also hit a homer in Westwood’s 11-1 win. (Westwood School/Special to The Herald)

STILLMORE — Westwood baseball coach Al Timmerman had one request of his team during his pre-game speech Friday before the opener of its GISA Class A Final Four series against David Emanuel.

“I told them, ‘Let’s go out, start fast and take the pressure off,’ ” he said.

Well, wish granted.

Westwood jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning thanks to Caleb Morrell’s three-rum bomb, then cruised to an 11-1 win that only went five innings thanks to the 10-run mercy rule.

“What a confidence booster when you can start like that,” Timmerman said. “It was a definite shot in the arm, and we just piled it on from there.”

The win now puts the Wildcats one step closer to a rematch of last year’s state title series with defending state champ and neighboring rival Crisp Academy, which swept the No. 1-ranked team in the Georgia’s Class A, Bethlehem Christian, on Friday to secure its spot in next week’s best-of-three tilt. But first up is Game 2 today at 11 a.m., followed by Game 3, if necessary.

Timmerman, for one, hopes it isn’t.

“It’s definitely doable,” the coach said when asked if he and his kids had sweep on their minds. “I think what we did in Game 1 set the tone for this series. I’ve always believed that if you can win Game 1, it takes so much pressure off your team and allows them to play a little looser. Not too loose, just looser.”

But visiting Westwood didn’t just win the opener on DEA’s homefield in Stillmore — the Wildcats made a statement the Eagles didn’t want to hear.

Douglas Nobles, who’s taking his talents to Georgia Southern after this season, shut down DEA from the opening pitch as he allowed just three hits and struck out nine in a complete-game effort. Nobles, the team’s leading hitter, also jacked a home run of his own and finished with two hits. Morrell, along with Mitch Good, Mason Worsham and Tyler Classon each finished with two hits, while Nobles and Morrell’s home runs were the only extra-base knocks.

“We just strung together hit after hit; nothing fancy, just good small ball,” said Timmeman, whose team improved to 18-3 after winning their third game in a row. “We hit well, and that left us feeling good about our chances (to win the series).”

Especially if Classon, a freshman who bats at the bottom of the order, keeps producing the way he has since the playoffs started. He’s now 8-for-10 in his last three games.

“It’s great,” Timmerman said of Classon’s emergence in the postseason. “He’s really come through for us. His bat is hotter than anyone’s right now.”

Morrell will get the start on the mound today, and if Game 3 is necessary, he and Nobles could both see action again. GISA rules state that one pitcher can’t go more than 10 innings in a series, and Nobles, Westwood’s ace, only went five Friday, meaning he still has five left.

The even better news for the Wildcats is that DEA ace Jason Aswerthy, who won both Game 1s for the Eagles in their first two state playoff series, is likely done after Westwood’s bats battered him in the opener.

“Our confidence is high right now,” Timmerman said. “We’re halfway to our goal.”