Tattnall Square pitcher Trey Freeman took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against Deerfield on Saturday during Game 2 of their best-of-three series in the GISA Class AAA Final Four in Macon. Deerfield’s Harris Webb broke up the no-no with a single, but Webb’s hit ended up being the only blemish all day as the Trojans rolled, 4-0, to sweep the series and eliminate the Knights from state title contention. (Ron Seibel/Macon Telegraph)
MACON — They shared this one, this tough, season-ending loss. They shared it together — just like they shared everything else in this magical, memorable year.
What else would you expect from these Deerfield-Windsor kids, the ones who cared so much for each other? Even in the end — especially in the end — they were close.
“I love these guys,’’ senior third baseman Lindsey Short said. “They’re like my second family. I’m going to miss them so much ...”
He meant it. You can hear it in the way he said it, and feel it, not only from Short, but from all the DWS kids.
“It was a heck of a season,’’ junior Weston King said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.’’
That’s the way Deerfield’s kids left the diamond Saturday, the final day of a remarkable ride that ended with a 4-0 loss to Tattnall Square in the GISA Class AAA Final Four.
They left the field the way they took it — with grit and togetherness and a bond that carried them to the lip of the state title game.
It was a long, frustrating afternoon, thanks to Tattnall lefty Trey Freeman, who tossed a one-hit shutout at the Knights, moving his pitches in and out and getting one big defensive play after another behind him.
Freeman (7-1) has thrown a no-hitter, a three-hitter and another one-hitter this season, but he was especially on his game Saturday, striking out seven and walking just two. He didn’t give up a hit until Harris Webb reached safely on an infield single in the sixth.
“He’s a crafty left-hander. He had us off-balance all day,’’ said King, who went the distance for Deerfield and pitched well enough to win. He only made one bad pitch — a fastball that Tattnall’s Tyler Ward hit out of the park for a three-run homer in the third. It was Ward’s sixth homer of the season. King (8-2) gave up just three hits after that.
Deerfield mounted a threat in the sixth and had runners at first and third with two outs, but Tattnall third baseman Grayson Brown — the son of former big-league All-Star pitcher Kevin Brown — made a nice play on a scorcher hit by Short to end the threat.
Brown is Tattnall’s pitching coach, and it showed the last two days as Conner Alford, who improved to 10-0 with a 7-3 win in Game 1, and Freeman pitched two gems to stop the Knights. Alford, who played second base Saturday, also made a diving play to steal a single from Johnny Croley in the fifth. It was like that all weekend for DWS, which played well but couldn’t catch a break against a Tattnall team that was simply lights out.
There’s a reason.
“Deerfield battles,’’ Tattnall coach Joey Hiller said. “We have so much respect for them. It helps us focus. We’ve faced them so many times in the playoffs (six times in the last eight years). They get up for us, and we get up for them.’’
Deerfield left with a loss, but no regrets about the way this team plays the game.
“It’s a season we’ll never forget,’’ King said. “And (in the end) we gave it our all. We didn’t leave anything on the field.’’
Tattnall (27-3) now moves on to play for the state title next weekend with a team that looked invincible the last two days.
Deerfield moves on, too.
“It may take a week or two for it to really hit me,’’ Short said. “I hate that it’s over. It was great.’’
It was Short who made an inspirational speech after a loss to Westfield last month that touched the hearts of every kid on the team and sparked a 14-game winning streak that didn’t end until Deerfield ran into a Tattnall team that could do no wrong for two days — a team that just might have won the unofficial state title Saturday.
Deerfield (23-5) was that good, that tough and that united. It took back-to-back amazing pitching performances from Tattnall, which was also flawless in the field, to end Deerfield’s season.
“It took a good team to knock us out it,’’ DWS coach Rod Murray said after the loss. “Even though we didn’t win a state championship, we had a very good season. We won 23 games and got our region championship back. Even though we’re a little sad right now, we had a very successful season.
“This team had a great attitude all year. They leaned on each other and had a real bond. There is so much to remember from this season. It’s kind of a trick question. I’ll remember the decision the kids made after the Westfield game that we were going to start rolling. They meant it.’’
But that’s not all Murray said. He said something over and over to different people at different times. Once the game was over, Murray wrapped up the season with the same phrase.
“This team was unselfish, so unselfish,’’ he said.
Later, speaking with someone else, Murray added: “This is such an unselfish group. Their attitude is, ‘What can I do for us?’ They lived by that.’’
And when Murray gathered the kids, the parents and the many DWS fans who made the trip to Macon in a circle after the game, he spoke to the adults in the crowd, the moms and dads who raised this bunch.
“This is one of the most unselfish groups you will ever find,’’ Murray said.
And you felt the circle grow a bit tighter with those words. Yes, just a bit tighter, a little closer as everyone inched in to share the moment.
That’s the way it ended for Deerfield on Saturday.
There they were, the same kids who had leaned on each other all season, inching in and leaning one more time.
They shared this one, this bitter loss — just like they shared everything else.