Close games have not been an ally for Bulloch Academy’s baseball team in 2017.
It’s possibly been the most significant struggle for the Gators this season. In games decided by four runs or less the Gators are 3-5, and a number of those losses have come in crucial regions games.
So it must have been nice for BA to finally be on the right side of a nailbiter, as the Gators held off St. Andrews School 5-1 Saturday afternoon to move one game within .500. The last time the BA pitching staff held a team to one run was March 9 against Brentwood, and and for head coach Kyle Chambers it was refreshing to see his staff settle in after their 11-0 loss to Pinewood Thursday afternoon.
“In several games this year we just haven’t had the pitching to get us through close games,” Chambers said. “Luckily today we were a little more relaxed.”
Starting pitcher Alex Cauthen battled through a rocky start to keep the run count as low as it was. Cauthen would allow four hits and walk another five hitters in three and two-thirds innings. He’d roll through 76 pitches in that time frame, 41 of them for strikes.
In both the bottom half of the second and third innings Cathen would find himself of danger of surrendering BA’s 2-1 lead, but in both cases he’d find a way to pitch out of the trouble. In the second he’d allow a single and a walk off a full count to see the runners advance to second and third on a passed ball with one out to threaten the lead.
The next batter up would line a 2-0 pitch seemingly over the head of Walker Hennon, but the Lincoln Memorial College commit lept up to snag the ball and doubled up the runner at second for the inning-ending double play.
Again in the bottom of the third with one out and one on, Cauthen would walk the next two batters to load the bases for St. Andrews cleanup hitter Brooks Vanderbilt. But Vanderbilt would smack a 1-1 ball right to Don Aaron at shortstop who step on second and throw on to first for another inning-ending double-play.
“Alex did a good executing those ground balls to give our infield a chance,” Chambers said. “Overall I feel like he had a pretty good start.”
Trevor Mason came in the fourth inning for relief and brought BA home with two and a third innings of one-hit ball. Mason only allowed two baserunners in his time on the mound in what was only his second pitching appearance of the season. Davis Childs could close things out with a two strikeout appearance in the seventh.
The game itself was much closer going into the bottom of the sixth with the score still standing at 2-1. With runners on the corners and one out, Will Aaron laid down a perfect bunt down the third base line to bring in Brett Thomas to make it 3-1 -- but the real damage was done with two outs and the bases loaded when Childs hit a hard-bouncer past the shortstop to bring in two more runs.
“We’ve had too many instances where we’ve gone into the seventh with one run and left it trailing in the score,” Chambers said. “It was nice to have a little extra cushion for Davis because he hasn’t thrown yet this year.”
Going into the sixth BA only had two hits, but they’d nearly double that count in the sixth inning off singles by Aaron, Thomas and Childs to provide the crucial insurance. Childs would be credited with two RBI, while Hennon and Jad Street would each get one.
BA (7-9, 1-8) will host Frederica in a region game Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.