The throw home to Deerfield catcher Gil Gillespie is not in time Friday as Tattnall’s Cole Gaylord scores one of the Trojans’ seven runs they put on the board to beat the Knights, 7-3, in Game 1. (Ron Seibel/Macon Telegraph)
MACON — Rod Murray had just talked with his kids, and he came away looking ahead — not behind.
“The world hasn’t come to an end,’’ said Murray, who had just watched his Deerfield-Windsor baseball team lose the first game of a best-of-three series against rival Tattnall Square, 7-3, on Friday.
It’s Deerfield and Tattnall (seems like they’re always bumping heads in the playoffs) once again in the GISA Class AAA Final Four, and the Knights are down after a nightmarish third inning -— but not out — because Game 2 is today at 2 p.m., and if DWS wins, Game 3 will follow.
“I just talked to them, and they told me they can’t wait until (today’s Game 2),’’ Murray said. “These guys are not going to shy away from anyone. They’re ready to come out and battle. They won’t give up. When the game ended, they were already talking about coming back and battling back (today).
“It’s not the end of the world.’’
It is the end of a winning streak, though. Deerfield (23-4) had won 14 in a row before Friday’s game at Tattnall, where the Trojans scored five unearned runs in the third inning — all with two outs.
Tattnall scored twice in the first inning on three doubles and led, 2-1, going into the third inning. Then after two quick outs, everything went Tattnall’s way.
With runners at second and third, shortstop Harris Webb’s throwing error with two outs brought home two runs and opened the door for Tattnall, and the Trojans came storming through it with clutch hitting from the bottom of their order.
Tattnall (26-3) got a big two-run double from No. 8 hitter Jeremy Naple, who hit a shot over Davis Hines in center. Then the ninth hitter in the lineup, Lance Manning, drove home Naple to give Tattnall a 7-1 lead. None of the five runs were earned, but that didn’t ease any of the pain.
“That’s why defense is so important,’’ Tattnall coach Joey Hiller said. “One little mistake can ignite an offensive explosion.’’
It was a tough break for DWS. Webb, who has been a leader on this team all year and a vacuum at short, went into the hole and made a strong play to get the ball, but his throw to first was high.
“The ball sailed on him a little bit,’’ DWS first baseman Weston King said. “We were one pitch away (the whole inning). Sometimes you make the pitch. Sometimes you don’t.’’
Now it’s up to King (8-1) to make the pitch. He starts Game 2 today, but Murray said emphatically after the loss that everyone in a DWS uniform is ready to pitch.
“All our arms are available,’’ Murray said. “We’re going to stand Weston up there, but everyone on our staff is ready to pitch.’’
That includes Friday’s starter, junior Austin Murphy (8-1), who lost for the first time this season. Murphy took a line drive off his leg, just below his knee cap, on the third out of the second inning. He said he had no trouble pushing off his leg the next inning and made no excuses.
“No, my leg wasn’t bothering me,’’ said Murphy, who went 2 2/3 innings and gave up six hits and two earned runs. “I just didn’t hit my spots. I left the ball up, and they hit it.’’
Coleman Butler, a junior, came in for Murphy and not only threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts, but hit his first home run of the season — a solo shot to right in the sixth. King had put DWS on the board with a homer to left in the second. DWS scratched for a run in the seventh when Hines, who came in to pitch a hitless sixth inning, walked, stole second and scored on a throwing error on a 6-4-3 double-play ball.
“Coleman Butler did a good job,’’ Murray said. “I got him out of there so he would be available to pitch (today).’’
That’s the idea at DWS. The Knights split a pair of games with Tattnall during the regular season, and the Deerfield kids left the field Friday feeling like they could still win two games today.
“We can’t let this loss bother us,’’ senior catcher Gil Gillespie said. “It’s a three-game series.’’
King felt the same way.
“They call it a series for a reason,’’ he said. “We’ve got two games to win, and we feel like we can do it. A pitch here and a pitch there (Friday) and it’s a whole-nother ball game. We never felt like we were out of it.’’
Tattnall has already used its ace, Conner Alford, who entered the game with a 0.58 ERA and improved his record to 10-0 with the win. He went the distance and gave up five hits, including two long balls. He struck out only four batters but didn’t walk anyone until the seventh.
Hiller said he doesn’t know who he will start in Game 2 today, but he does know about the resiliency of Deerfield, a program he has faced in the state finals (2005, 2008) the semifinals (2009, 2011) and in the second round of the playoffs (2010). The two teams have now met in the playoffs six times in the last eight years.
“We haven’t won anything yet,’’ Hiller said after Game 1 on Friday. “They’re a big rival, and it’s a good rivalry. There’s a lot of respect for their program. We know we have to play our best baseball when we play Deerfield.’’
And Murray is expecting the best from his kids today.