Darton’s Payton Mann (left) and Hill Thomas celebrate after Mann scored the go-ahead run in the seventh inning Tuesday afternoon as the Cavaliers defeated East Georgia College 7-6. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
ALBANY – Until Tuesday afternoon, Trey Haygood admitted he’d never helped win a baseball game the way he did.
With the bases loaded and Darton State College tied with East Georgia, Haygood’s left elbow collided with a biting curveball thrown from pitcher Zach Cearley.
It forced home Payton Mann and helped the Cavaliers to a 7-6 Region XVII victory.
“It will be swollen but it’ll be fine,” said Haygood, who had a bag of ice wrapped around his left elbow after the game.
“I hadn’t been swinging the bat particularly well. I had to do something. When it presented itself, I had to take it, even if it meant causing me a little bit of pain.”
Mann scored what turned out to be the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh after the Cavaliers mounted a five-run rally with two outs, mostly coming from three East Georgia infield blunders.
The freshman catcher delivered the biggest blow, smashing a fastball that missed clearing the left field fence by a few inches. The ball landed at the base of the fence and Mann ended up with a double while clearing the bases to tie at 6.
“A fastball was all I was looking for,” said Mann, who finished 1-for-2 with three RBIs while getting hit twice.
“I don’t know where it landed. I unloaded on it and it felt pretty darn good after I had gotten hold of it.”
The seventh-inning drama highlighted an otherwise ugly game between the two rivals, who combined for five errors. Darton staked itself to a 2-0 lead in the first on a two-run homer from Brandon Sharpe, who finished 2-for-5.
However, East Georgia quickly tied the game in the top half of the second.
The Bobcats went ahead in the fourth, then took command with a three-run sixth inning to grab a 6-2 advantage and chased Darton ace John Harman.
But just when the Cavaliers seemed to be out for the count, they responded in the seventh.
The damage started when Hill Thomas’ infield bunt, which appeared to be a sure third out, was fielded and thrown into right field. Luis Salas then reached on an RBI single before Sharpe followed with a single.
Max Thomas then lined a shot that Bobcat shortstop Nick Rau fielded, then flipped to second-baseman Tim Rozell for what appeared to be the force out at second. However, Rozell dropped the ball, keeping the inning alive for Darton.
That brought Mann to the plate, who stroked the 2-1 fastball to left field to clear the bases and tied the game.
But Ryan LaPointe was hit by a pitch, then Tavin Thompson reached on another infield error to reload the bases before Haygood was hit to force home Mann.
Former Crisp County standout Davis Adkins worked the final two and two-thirds innings, earning the victory in relief.
“Sometimes you’re good, sometimes you’re bad, sometimes you’re lucky,” said Darton coach Scot Hemmings, whose team improved to 12-11 and 3-2 in Region XVII play.
“We had a little of all three today. We played good early, bad in the middle and were lucky late. Sometimes it takes those kinds of things to win.”