Deerfield's Kh'Ron McClain is fooled by an offspeed pitch from Tattnall Square's Taylor Ferringer, who struck out 13 Knights in Friday's opening game of the GISA Class AAA state championship series. (Photo courtesy of Dianne Butler/Special to The Herald)
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WHO: Deerfield (19-11) at Tattnall Square (26-7-1).
WHAT: GISA Class AAA state championship, best-of-three series.
WHEN: 2 p.m. today — Game 2, followed immediately by Game 3, if necessary.
LIVE UPDATES: Log on at twitter.com/AlbHeraldSports.
SERIES: Tattnall leads, 1-0.
MACON — The Deerfield-Windsor baseball team knows what it feels like to be knocked to the ground.
The Knights have been here before, standing with their backs against the wall with their season on the brink of elimination.
Tattnall Square ace Taylor Ferringer sent the Knights back to that familiar spot one more time Friday.
Ferringer, a right-handed junior, struck out 13 and tossed a complete-game two-hitter in the opening game of the GISA Class AAA state championship series, lifting the host Trojans (26-7-1) to a 2-0 win and bringing them within one victory of their fifth state title in the last decade.
But the Knights (19-11), who are trying to win their first title in a decade, also know how to dust themselves off and come back stronger than ever.
“A lot of these guys have played in seven state championships in various sports through their years at Deerfield. They aren’t afraid of big games,” Deerfield coach Rod Murray said. “The Deerfield student-athlete will compete till the end no matter what.”
And today is the end, no matter what.
The Knights, who similarly lost the opener in last week’s semifinals against Brookwood before battling back to win the series, will need to beat the defending champs in back-to-back games today to claim their first state title since 2003.
It’s been a season at Deerfield defined by bouncing back from rough starts — they began the year 3-4 — so there might not be a better way for the Knights to win a title.
And that’s exactly what Friday’s starting pitcher Weston King and the rest of his teammates were thinking as they walked off the field Friday.
“You just have to take a deep breath and take (today) one pitch at a time,” King said. “We aren’t going to be able to win two games with one swing. When we wake up (today), there is no tomorrow when it comes to baseball. Our backs are against the wall, and we have to come out swinging.”
King, Deerfield’s leading pitcher in terms of wins and ERA, kept the Knights in the game. The senior threw a complete game and allowed eight hits and two runs against a dangerous Tattnall lineup, and he has four innings left — that is, if Murray decides to put him back on the mound today.
“I gave it all I had (Friday),” King said. “There is no tomorrow now, so if he asks me to go (today), I will go.”
Neither coach revealed their Game 2 starters, but Deerfield has a stable of arms to turn to. It’s been that deep rotation, which includes Coleman Butler, Austin Murphy and Justin Glover, that has made the Knights unbeatable in three-game series.
“In our minds we know that no team can beat us in a three-game series,” Deerfield second baseman Kh’Ron McClain said. “We have to stay focused on the goal. We can’t get down with one loss because we know it’s a series.”
McClain and King were the only two Knights to get hits off Ferringer, who ran his season strikeout total to 106. The crafty Tattnall ace struck out everybody in DWS’ starting lineup except King and allowed just three base runners.
“When a guy is bringing a snap breaking pitch in there, it’s going to keep you off balance,” Murray said of Ferringer, who entered the game with a 0.70 ERA. “It doesn’t matter how hard the guy is throwing when the breaking pitch is getting in there and snapping late. It kept us off balance and kept our sticks at bay all day.”
Tattnall coach Joey Hiller said it was one of Ferringer’s best games of his career.
“He really had a great season, but he probably saved his best outing of the year for this,” said Hiller, who added that Ferringer would be available to throw today if his arm allows it.
The Knights didn’t get their first hit until the fourth inning when McClain led off with a screaming double down the left field line. The heart of Deerfield’s order, however, left McClain — the tying run — stranded on third base.
King’s single came in the seventh inning when the Knights were down to their final out, but Butler struck out on the next at-bat to end the game.
Tattnall scored once in each the first and sixth innings, smacking three hits off King in each frame. The Trojans would have taken a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth, but Tattnall senior Tyler Ward had a solo home run taken away by left fielder KE’Marvin Pitts, who threw his mitt over the fence to rob Ward. The play was nearly identical to Pitts’ catch last week against Brookwood when he robbed a three-run homer to prevent Brookwood from taking the lead.
And just like in the Brookwood series, the Knights are ready to fight with their backs against the wall.
“We are a unit. We aren’t blaming this on anybody. We understand that we lost this is a team, and we can win (today) as a team,” King said. “We have all the confidence in the world. We trust the guys who we will put up on the mound (today), and we trust that our bats will come alive.”