Sixth-year DWS baseball coach Rob Murray fell short in his third trip to the state championship series as Tattnall Square swept the Knights with wins Friday and Saturday to capture the GISA Class AAA state title. (Photo courtesy of Dianne Butler)
MACON — The tears have fallen before for the Deerfield-Windsor baseball team.
They fell a little harder this time.
“There’s not another chance,” Deerfield senior Davis Hines said with tears streaming through his eye-black. “We have no more games left.”
Tattnall Square finished a sweep of Deerfield on Saturday with a 4-3 win in Game 2 of the best-of-three series to repeat as GISA Class AAA state champs, sending the Knights home with their third runner-up trophy in the past six years.
But the nine DWS seniors — who were sophomores when the Knights lost the championship to Westfield in 2011 — walked off the field knowing they won’t get another chance to snap the program’s 10-year state title drought.
“We didn’t come to lose,” DWS senior Weston King said. “We came to win and came to compete, and we competed well. But this wasn’t how we wanted to go out.”
The Knights, who were shutout, 2-0, in Game 1 Friday by Tattnall ace Taylor Ferringer, fought from behind almost the entire game Saturday and never actually led in the series.
DWS tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the fourth on a two-out RBI from Sam Shellhaas, but Tattnall retook the lead in the top of the fifth and held the Knights to just one hit the rest of the way.
Deerfield’s lone hit in the final three innings was a lead-off single from Shellhaas in the bottom of the seventh, which knocked Will Herndon — the game’s winning pitcher — out of the game and brought Ferringer and his 0.65 ERA in to get the final three outs.
Justin Glover, who threw all seven innings for DWS and allowed seven hits and struck out seven, bunted Shellhaas to second, and Ryan Toole hit a deep fly ball that moved Shellhaas to third base and 90 feet away from tying the game.
But Ferringer struck out DWS designated hitter Will Akins for the third out, securing the Trojans’ fifth state title in the last decade.
“It was right there,” DWS coach Rod Murray said about the tying run stranded at third. “There were a lot of ways you can score from third, and we were hoping we would get a two-out base knock.”
With Ferringer on the mound a day after striking out 13 Knights hitters, Tattnall coach Joey Hiller was confident his star right-hander would get out of the jam.
“It was a tight, pressure situation, but based on (Akins’) first swing that I saw, I liked our chances,” Hiller said.
Tattnall scored in the first inning for the second time in the series to take an early 1-0 lead and then jumped ahead 2-0 with a Tyler Ward solo homer to left field in the third inning.
The Knights bounced back with one run in the third but got thrown out at home trying to score on a passed ball and then got thrown out at second on a stolen base attempt, spoiling an inning where they had three hits in their first four at-bats.
Tattnall took a 3-1 lead in the top of the fourth on an RBI single from Cory Bartholomew, but Deerfield bounced back again in the bottom of the inning, pulling within one when Harris Webb scored on an error and then tying it on Shellhaas’ single.
Tattnall center fielder Orlando Mack denied Deerfield a chance to take the lead when he robbed King of a three-run homer with no outs in the fourth. It was a play that was almost identical to his game-saving catch in the regular season against the Knights when he robbed King of a walk-off home run.
“He did it one time, but I never thought he could do it a second time,” King said. “Never did it cross my mind that he was going to get that one.”
King was the losing pitcher in Friday’s opener but was available to close out Game 2 if the Knights would have had the lead late. Deerfield’s Coleman Butler and Tattnall’s Grayson Brown were slated to start the winner-take-all Game 3.
It just never got to that point.
“It’s pretty tough when your kids and your coaches and everybody lays your heart out there,” Murray said. “You battle to get in this series … but it hurts right now to come in second.”
It’s a pain, however, Hines couldn’t dream of sharing with anybody else.
“I wouldn’t want to play with any other group,” said Hines, who, along with teammates Webb, has committed to play baseball at the University of Georgia. “I would rather come in second 10 times than play for Tattnall one time. I would never want to play with another group of guys or for another coach, even if we came in 30th every time. I wouldn’t trade my friends, teammates or coaches for anything.”
The nine seniors — King, Webb, Hines, Butler, Shellhaas, Kh’Ron McClain, KE’Marvin Pitts, Austin Murphy and James Moree — were part of a class that played in seven state championships in baseball, basketball and football in their four years at the school, but the only sport they weren’t able to conquer was baseball.
“Those guys have been around here a long time. I remember when they were in eighth-grade and all played on our B team and helped us get our numbers where they are. It’s a great group of kids,” Murray said. “We were hoping we could send them out with a ring, and we were trying our hardest to do it. But we just came up short.”
Tattnall repeated as Class AAA state champs for the second time in six years and for the third time in school history. The Trojans will look for their first three-peat next season, which will be the school’s final in the GISA before joining the GHSA.
“I think that’s a lot of the allure and mystique of so many state championships (that makes us tough to beat),” Hiller said. “It’s all the hard work that they have done, but it’s all the hard work that all the teams have done over the years that give us that belief. We believe that we are supposed to win it, and that’s why we can overcome adversity and keep our cool.”