Cordele native Davis Adkins pitched the game of his life Thursday afternoon — going 10 innings, despite being used primarily as a reliever most of the year — but it came in a heartbreaking Darton loss to Middle Georgia, 4-3, in extra innings. (David Mann/Darton State College)
ALBANY — In a battle of two teams that aren’t too fond of one another, a frenzied effort to push the game to extra innings wasn’t enough for the Darton State baseball team, as the Cavs fell in 10 innings, 4-3, to bitter rival Middle Georgia Warriors on Thursday afternoon in the championship bracket of the Region XVII tournament.
But the news got better later Thursday when Darton, the No. 3 seed, kept its title hopes alive by smashing top seed Georgia Perimeter, 9-1, in a do-or-die game that extended the Cavs’ season for at least one more day.
Darton will now play today at 3:30 p.m. against Gordon College with the winner advancing to play a second game later today at 7 p.m. in the consolation bracket championship.
If Darton can pull off back-to-back wins today, the Cavs will advance to the championship, which will be played Saturday at noon at Cavalier Field.
As for Thursday’s contest, after tensions marred the clubs’ last meeting — a 7-6 Darton win on April 27 — this meeting was much tamer.
But it was just as tense.
“There’s bad blood, but it all goes back to the fundamentals of baseball,” said MGC assistant coach Chris Howell, who was filling in for MGC head coach Craig Young after Young was suspended four games following his actions (refusing to leave the field after being ejected and then attempting to coach from a distance) during that last meeting with Darton. “Our guys came out and did the small things (Thursday). I’m just happy we were able to step up in a big game like this.”
Darton shortstop Cody Wofford said winning four games in two days isn’t impossible, and he feels the Cavs are up for the challenge. After all, it’s not every year you get a chance to both host and win the region tournament in the same weekend.
“There’s no more motivation needed for this game,” the sophomore said. “It’s left all on the field. You just have to control yourself and take care of business.”
Though the Warriors held a 3-2 lead entering the final inning, the Cavs were able to take advantage of a few errors and clutch hitting to make a game of it. After Wofford reached base thanks to a dropped third strike, freshman outfielder Riliani Familia knocked a blooper to left-centerfield, leaving two men on base with one out.
Sophomore first baseman Kyle Conkle then drove Wofford home with an RBI single to right field to tie the game at 3-3. The Warriors would stop the bleeding, and after freshman pitcher and Cordele native Davis Adkins — who had a heck of a day, going all 10 innings, despite being used most of the year as a reliever — retired the side, the game went to extra innings.
In the 10th, MGC freshman outfielder Cody Lanford got on base after belting an Adkins pitch past Darton third baseman Tay Jerger. Middle Georgia sophomore Blake Shouse laid down a sacrifice bunt, then the Cavs intentionally walked utility man Drew Kelley. Two batters later, MGC freshman catcher Cole Thompson smacked a ball to right field, driving the winning run home and sending Darton to the losers’ bracket.
Thompson led Warrior batters, going 3-for-5 with two runs to go along with the game-winning RBI. Darton catcher Davis Knapp scored after a wild pitch in the first inning. Kody Adams blasted a solo home run to right-centerfield in the third inning, and Conkle led the Cavs’ offensive efforts, going 2-for-4 with an RBI.
“I just came out ready to play,” Thompson said. “I knew we needed to win it, so I did all I could. We just stuck together as a team, tried to keep everyone up and keep them playing hard.”
The loss, as expected, stung Darton.
“It definitely hurts,” said sophomore outfielder Kody Adams. “It makes it harder for us to get to the final game, but we know we have to keep our heads up and play this next one.”
Adams said the Cavs simply made too many errors.
“It was a very sloppy game, on and off the field,” Adams said. “We made a lot of mental and physical errors, but we’re going to come back out of it against Georgia Perimeter and show people we came to play.”
Adkins pitched seven scoreless innings, tallying eight strikeouts and giving up seven hits in a loss. The Warriors’ Ryan Lawlor pitched eight innings, striking out seven and allowing seven hits.
Darton coach Scot Hemmings said Adkins handled the additional workload quite well.
“Davis has been our closer all year. He’s a Second-Team All-Conference closer, but we asked him to do a big thing (by starting this game for us), and he came through big for us,” Hemmings said. “He was huge (Thursday), and we should’ve got the win for him.”
Hemmings was also glad this meeting was much calmer than the last.
“We tip our hat to our guys,” Hemmings said. “They played hard. I think both coaches did a good job of not letting what happened two weeks ago (happen again). Coach Young had their team prepared emotionally. It was just a great game. If we make a few plays in early innings, it’s a whole new ball game.”
“It was just a great game by two great teams. They came out on the better side, but our kids played their butts off. If you look at the box score, we should’ve won that game 3-0. The three runs they scored were unearned. Davis was phenomenal. I don’t know if you can get any better than what he did. He pitched out of a few jams. I’m just proud he’s a freshman and that we’ll have him back next year.”
Adkins, however, hasn’t given up on this year quite yet.
“We gave it our all,” Adkins said. “Errors will kill you, but all in all, it was a good game; good, fun, baseball. I’ve got a bunch of friends that go to MGC, so I already knew it’d be a real big competition.”
“But our goal was to make it to the region championships. We still have a chance, we just have to go out and compete.”
LATE THURSDAY — DARTON 9, GEORGIA PERIMETER 1: Darton survived its elimination game thanks to a stellar pitching performance from Brandon Goldsmith, who went seven innings, gave up just four hits and struck out three.
Darton was led at the plate by Adams (2-for-4, run, RBI, double), Conkle (3-for-4, two runs, RBI), Rashad Billups (2-for-2, two runs, RBI and Casey James (2-for-3, run, RBI, double). With the loss, No. 1 seed GPC was eliminated from the tournament.
Deerfield golf fires lowest score of year in final meet before state tournament
THOMASVILLE — The Deerfield-Windsor golf team not only fired its best team score of the season Thursday — a 298 at Glenn Arban Golf Course, site of next week’s state tournament — but the Knights also beat out defending state champ Tiftarea head-to-head, although Tift was missing its top golfer.
John Leach, the medalist at the region tournament Tuesday, led the team with an even-par 72, followed by Wilson Joiner (74), Bill Sharpe (76) and Ethan Shellhaas (76).
The state meet will begin Monday at 9:30 a.m.