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Big fifth gives SEB win over rival Screven
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    BROOKLET — Trailing 3-2 with the bases loaded and nobody out, Justin Daniels ripped a two-run double to deep right field to spark a six-run fifth inning and propel the Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets (9-9, 5-4 Region 3-AA) to an 8-5 win over the visiting Screven County Gamecocks Friday in a makeup of an earlier rainout.
    Back-to-back singles by starting pitcher Joe Wilson and right fielder Corey Nesmith put two Jackets on to lead off the inning, and left fielder Tony Raymond reached on a Screven County error after an attempted sacrifice bunt to load the bases for Daniels (2-for-4, 2B, 3 RBIs, R). The double put SEB up for good after three lead changes.
    “I just wanted to hit something deep so we could at least score one, and it ended up working out better than I thought,” said Daniels. “I think it broke their back and it gave us some confidence, and that’s what we needed to bust it wide open.”
    The 4-3 Southeast lead prompted a second Gamecock pitching change of the night, and Matt Conner walked on four-straight pitches to load the bases again. Then, Cory Ward slapped a bloop single into shallow center to score Raymond.
    The next two Yellow Jacket runs crossed the plate on a bases-loaded passed ball and an error. When the ball got away from Screven’s catcher, Daniels scored. The ball got by the pitcher on the throw to the plate, allowing Conner to come home and give SEB a 7-3 lead.
    Southeast got its final run on an RBI single by David McCarthy that scored Ward for the Jackets’ eighth and final run of the contest.
    “We executed like we were supposed to, and they didn’t execute,” said SEB coach Stephen Hoyle. “The result was a big inning. Six runs in one inning — any time you can do that, you’re going to be on the upper end.”
    The game was a battle from the first pitch.
    The Yellow Jackets went up 1-0 in the first on a Ward RBI single that scored Raymond (1-for-2, BB, 3 R). Screven answered in the top of the second when Jon Rash crossed the plate on a Joe Collins groundout.
    Southeast re-took the lead in the bottom of the third when Raymond crossed the plate for the second time — this time on an RBI single by Daniels.
    Rash scored from third on another groundout in the top of the fourth to tie the game, and the Gamecocks took a 3-2 lead when Wilson tried to nail Andrew Reddick at home but the throw went wide.
    Wilson — who has gotten a win in each of his last three starts — went 51⁄3 innings and struck out four. Conner came in to finish out the game.
    “(Wilson has) really come along here in the second half (of the season),” said Hoyle. “We changed him from the closer role to the starter role, and he came in and did a great job. Matt Conner went from the starter role to the closer role. He came in in a tight ballgame when we couldn’t give up any more runs and he did a great job — closed the door.”
    Down by three, Screven made a final attempt at a rally in the top of the seventh.
    Reddick led off the inning with a base hit, followed by a Rash walk. A wild pitch put runners on second and third with nobody out, but Garrett Bates grounded one back to Conner, and a heads-up play got Reddick at home. The game ended when Conner was able to strike out Collins and SEB catcher Casey Woodrum nailed Bates as he tried for second.
    “There’s nothing better in baseball,” Hoyle said, “then a strike ’em out, throw ’em out to end the ballgame — except for maybe a walkoff. … We had a play on. If the guy was going to steal we’d get him out at second, or we’d get them out at home.”  
    The win helped close the gap in region standings for the Jackets. Screven County (10-7, 7-3) is trailing the top two teams — Westside and Swainsboro. Southeast Bulloch will try to close the gap further when it travels to Laney on Tuesday.

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.