Baconton Charter star catcher Zack Jones helped the Blazers rally from a Game 1 loss Friday to Turner County in the first round of the GHSA Class A state playoffs as the Blazers stayed alive by winning Game 2.
BACONTON — Baconton-Charter’s Zack Jones stood next to the Blazers’ dugout caked in mud, exhausted and covered in sweat and rain.
“But it’s worth it,” a smiling Jones said after Friday’s six-hour doubleheader against Turner County in the first round of the Class A state baseball playoffs.
After losing the opener, 9-6, and putting their dream season on the brink of elimination, the Blazers rallied in Game 2 to win, 16-9, in constant wind and rain to force a winner-take-all Game 3 at noon today in Baconton.
The marathon nightcap — which lasted three hours and had one momentum swing after another — extended Baconton’s best season in school history, running the state-ranked No. 4 Blazers’ record to 23-5 and giving them momentum heading into today’s deciding game.
“I want it bad,” said Jones, who had five RBI in the doubleheader. “We have seen their pitching. We know what they have, and they know what we have. It all comes down to (today).”
Both teams went deep into the bullpen to finish the second game, meaning the potential Game 3 starters will likely have limited innings, possibly setting up another wild game at Blazer Field.
"I think we both saw Game 3 pitchers (on Friday). I don't know where we will go (today)," Baconton coach Bubber Birdsong said. "Their No. 1 has five innings left, and (Baconton ace Taber) Raley has five innings. It's two evenly matched teams, and (today) it's gonna be the last man standing. It really could be a 14-13 game, especially if the weather is bad again."
Turner County, the No. 13 team in the state, jumped on Baconton starting pitcher Brock Pinson early in the opener and knocked the senior out of the game in the top of the fourth inning after getting six runs and four hits off the right-hander.
The Rebels ran their lead to 9-1 in the top of the sixth inning, but the Blazers, who were held to one hit in the first five innings by Turner ace Grant Muse, bounced back with five runs in the bottom of the sixth thanks to RBI from B.J. Classon and Raley and a three-run double from Brantley Morgan.
It was just too little too late for a Baconton team that couldn’t have asked for a worse start to their playoff run.
“We were sitting back and thinking we were good,” Jones said. “We were the No. 4 seed, and it was kind of a shock to us. They punched us in the face, and we had to recover.”
The recovery didn’t take long.
Raley and Tony Holland opened the second game with first-inning runs to put Baconton up 2-0, and then the Blazers poured on 11 more runs in the next four innings to head into the top of the fifth with a 13-0 lead and Raley dealing a one-hit shutout.
Raley didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning and allowed only three base runners in the first four frames.
“My mindset was to just win and go out there and pitch my game,” said Raley, a freshman who is now 9-0 as a starter. “I didn’t want to let my teammates down. We just forgot about the first game and put it behind us.”
Raley was one out away from ending the game in the fifth inning via the mercy rule, but Turner rallied with two outs to send the game into the sixth inning.
In the sixth, Baconton’s Stephen Ballard scored on a passed ball to put the Blazers ahead by 10 runs again and set up another potential mercy rule, but Turner plated five runs in the sixth — all with two outs — to cut Baconton’s lead to five heading into the final inning.
The Blazers scored twice in the seventh, and Blazer reliever Alex Carden pitched a perfect inning to send the teams home exactly six hours after the first pitch.
“So much stuff happened in the last three innings I can’t even remember the order that everything happened in,” Birdsong said. “In the first game they got ahead and were able to bunt and do some things offensively, and then in the second game we go ahead and were able to do some things.
“Whoever jumps out early (today) will be big. The coin toss (deciding who hits first) might be the most pivotal point of the day.”
Eight Blazers got base hits in the second game, including Jones (2-for-2, 4 RBI, 2 R), Raley (2-for-3, 3 R), Holland (2-for-4, 3 R, RBI), Raley (2-for-3, 3 R), Pinson (1-for-2, 4 R) and Hunter Cain (1-for-4, 2 RBI).
Jones had the only home run in the doubleheader, blasting a solo shot over the left field fence in the second inning of the opener.
LEE COUNTY SWEPT BY STARR'S MILL:
FAYETTEVILLE — Lee County baseball coach Rob Williams hasn’t had to give the speech too often — or this early — but when he does, it’s always painful.
“We just told the kids we appreciated their effort, and that we didn’t have the kind of season we had for any lack of hustle,” said the long-time Trojans’ baseball coach after his team was swept out of the first round of the GHSA Class AAAAA state playoffs Friday night by Starr’s Mill. “You know, in life, there are a lot of things that knock you down and you have to get back up, and this is one of those times. We’ll get back up and hold our heads high. It just wasn’t our year.”
Lee lost the opener, 10-0, in five innings, then fell, 6-1, in the nightcap to end its season a disappointing 10-18.
Errors killed the Trojan in Game 1 — they committed four — and that ruined an otherwise solid night on the mound for Chad Moore, who gave up just two earned runs. Jack Bell tallied two of Lee’s six total hits, but the Trojans could never get much going offensively.
In Game 2, Chris Moseley shouldered the loss after going five innings and allowing four earned runs. Bell was once again the only source of offense as he notched two of Lee’s three total hits. Matt Mears drove in the Trojans’ only run.
“I’m proud that they could’ve folded their tents a lot of times this season, even (Friday night), but they never did,” Williams said. “We fought until the end.”
Lee loses nine seniors off this year’s team — five of them starters.