Albany State’s Corbin Williams, left, waits for the throw at second base as Morehouse runner Thomas Scott tries to slide in safely during Game 2 of their conference doubleheader Saturday. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — Albany State’s Juan Waters stepped into the batter’s box Saturday against Morehouse fully expecting to knock in the winning run in the conference showdown.
It was the body slam from teammate Jacob Campbell moments later that he never saw coming.
Waters’ game-winning single down the third-base line in the bottom of the eighth scored Allen Hardy to clinch a 9-8 ASU victory, sending Campbell charging out of the dugout and tackling Waters after he touched first base to usher in a celebration after the Rams won two games vs. Morehouse to stay in first place in the conference.
“I really didn’t see (Campbell) until he was right on me,” said a smiling Waters after the game. “He just tackled me, and then they all dogpiled on me. It feels good to come through for your team. It feels great.”
Waters, a senior from Randallstown, Md., didn’t play in Saturday’s opening game where ASU won, 11-2, but he stepped up in Game 2 with the biggest hit of the day.
“It was an exciting moment, and hopefully it gives us some energy coming into (today’s series finale against Morehouse),” said Campbell, a former Westover star who was the first out of the dugout to celebrate. “I just speared him. We are really team-oriented, and we just wanted to let him know that he did good.”
Waters’ game-winner came after the Rams allowed Morehouse to score two runs in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game and send it into extra innings. ASU reliever Theodore Tramontana tossed a perfect top of the eighth, and Hardy hit a one-out single in the bottom of the inning to start the extra-inning rally. Fellow former Westover star Kerry Hall drew a walk on the next at-bat, and then Waters hit a screamer past third base that easily scored Hardy.
“He’s been making big hits for us, and he’s just keeping it going,” ASU coach Kenyan Conner said of Waters. “I was confident he was going to come through. All he had to do was take the right approach. The ball came in on him, and he pulled it.”
It was a game between the best and the worst teams in the conference that nobody expected to be tight. The Rams (14-20, 12-1) are in first place in the conference, while Morehouse is in last in the East Division at 2-29 overall and 1-11 in the conference — but the visiting Tigers got six runs off ASU starter Ryan Latner and took a 6-4 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth.
The Rams responded with three runs in the fifth and added another in the sixth to take an 8-6 lead into the seventh.
Campbell, who was 1-for-2 in the nightcap but scored three runs and reached base four times, said the Rams might have overlooked the lowly Tigers.
“We have to come out where with the same intensity whether we are playing Valdosta State or Morehouse or Stillman,” Campbell said. “We have to treat it like anything can happen in baseball. It’s big to come out here and beat a good team, but it’s just as big to come out here and beat a team that we know we should beat.”
Latner, the Rams’ knuckleballer with a side-armed delivery, kept Morehouse’s bats silent for the first two innings but couldn’t get out of fifth and left the game after 4 1/3 innings and allowed six runs and 10 hits.
Tramontana got the win after getting out of a jam in the top of the seventh and then going 1-2-3 in the eighth.
The Rams fell behind 2-1 in the opening game when Morehouse’s Brian Thomas hit a two-run homer in the top of the second, but ASU exploded for four runs in the third, two in the fourth, two in the fifth and two in the sixth to cruise to a nine-run victory.
Clifford Peterson pitched a complete game, allowed three hits and struck out six Tigers.
“He pitched lights out,” Conner said of Peterson. “He hit his spots and kept them off balance. He gave up a home run but didn’t lose his focus. He stayed focused and kept pitching to contact, and we made plays behind him.”
The bottom four batters in ASU’s lineup went 6-for-11 and finished with eight RBI, five runs and four extra-base hits. Dexter Moody, the Rams’ leading hitter who is No. 9 in the batting order, hit a no-doubter over the left field fence in the fifth inning for his team-high sixth homer of the season.
Conner said Moody, who is also a star safety on the football team, has found a niche as the last batter in the lineup.
“He is still a strikeout guy, and hitting in the nine hole lets you see more fast balls because they don’t want to see the top of the order,” Conner said. “And I’ve been keeping him in the nine hole because that’s been working for us, too.”
Other Rams hitters with good openers were Corbin Williams (2-for-4, 3 stolen bases), Hector Carrasquillo (0-for-1, 2 RBI, 2 runs), Uwen Udofia (2-for-3, 2 RBI) and Xavier Chapman (3-for-3, 2 RBI, 2 doubles).
The victory put the Rams, who will go for the three-game sweep against Morehouse today at 1 p.m., two games ahead of Benedict College in the East Division, but Conner hesitated to suggest ASU is the team to beat in the conference this season.
“We just feel like the team that is trying to get better,” Conner said. “We didn’t win the East last year and didn’t win the conference last year, so there is no need to feel like we are the team to beat. Stillman is the defending champion, and they are the team to beat. All we are trying to do is control our own destiny and get a good seed in the tournament.”
DARTON SPLITS WITH ABAC: GSW BASEBALL CRUSHED:
TIFTON — Darton State’s baseball team continued to have problems with ABAC on Saturday, splitting a doubleheader.
The Cavaliers, ranked 12th in the nation, lost the opener, 8-7, after ABAC scored seven runs in the second inning against starter Casey Moody, who lost control and then lost the game. Moody walked five in the second inning and allowed seven runs on just three hits. He is now 4-1.
Kody Adams went 2-for-4 and drove in four runs and Nate Ferrell had a double in the loss.
The Cavaliers, who had their 14-game winning streak at home snapped by ABAC earlier in the week, came back to win the second game, 9-1. John Harman pitched a complete game to get the win. He allowed four hits and struck out two and didn’t give up an earned run.
Adams had two more hits, Cody Wofford hit a triple and Brandon Sharpe had a solo home run in the win. The Cavaliers (29-7) play ABAC at 1 p.m. today in Tifton to close out the series.
COLUMBUS STATE BASEBALL SWEEPS GSW: Georgia Southwestern’s hopes of reaching the postseason took another hit Saturday when the Hurricanes dropped a pair of games to Columbus State.
The Canes are now 12-25 after losing twice in Columbus, and are 8 1/2 games back in a race for the final playoff spot with nine games left in the season. GSW has now lost four in a row.
Columbus State won the opener, 15-11, and took the nightcap, 7-3.
Ex-Deerfield-Windsor star Justin Lott took the loss in the opener, allowing seven runs on eight hits and four walks in five innings. Stephen Eldridge had a big day at the plate, going 3-for-6 and driving in four runs, and Blane Parker went 4-for-5 and scored twice. Josh Sanders went 3-for-6 and drove in a run.
Former Lee County star Matthew Suggs suffered the loss in the nightcap. He gave up seven runs (six earned) on 11 hits over 5 1/3 innings. He struck out four and gave up two home runs.
John Duran went 4-for-4 and drove in two runs for the Canes.