Following an extended midseason losing streak, Statesboro did itself a favor Monday evening to take another step closer to salvaging the 2017 season.
The Blue Devils' 10-0 win over New Hampstead put them two games away from qualifying for the state playoffs. Even at 7-18 on the season and 2-8 in region competition, they can still be one of the four teams Region 2-AAAAA sends to the playoffs — and two more wins against New Hampstead could lock up the No. 4 seed for Statesboro come the end of April.
“I pulled up a table in our locker room and put four chairs around it,” said head coach Jim Simmons. “There’s three seats taken, and there’s one left. I asked the team if we wanted to be in that final seat.”
New Hampstead entered this week's series tied for the second best record overall record in Region 2-AAAAA — tied with South Effingham at 12-10. Their stats pop off the screen, with six starters hitting over .300 and a team on-base percentage of .455. However when you zoom in on New Hampstead’s schedule, it’s clear how they’ve managed to have a winning record and good stats despite being winless in region play.
The Phoenix’s schedule is riddled with subpar teams from the Savannah area — the same teams Southeast Bulloch regularly run rules by scores of 15-0 in three innings. Johnson, Beach, Groves, Savannah and Windsor Forest all appear on the slate, along with 1-25 Montgomery County.
New Hampstead's lone quality win came against Jenkins by an 8-5 count, but in six games against South Effingham and Ware County, New Hampstead has been outscored 67-5.
“We knew we were going to see low velocity, which we’ve struggled with this season, by the way,” Simmons said. “Until today though. We had much better at bats as the game went along.”
Statesboro starter Griffin Davis mowed down Phoenix hitters with relative ease, surrendering only four baserunners via three walks and a hit in 19 batters in an outing of three innings or more since Statesboro’s 15-0 run ruling of Richmond Hill on March 6.
It took about three innings for the Blue Devil bats to wake up, but in the bottom of the fourth and fifth Statesboro would score seven runs off seven hits to hit the mercy rule threshold.
An Austin Daniels double, Davis Wiggins triple and Ty Tidick single would double the score from 3-0 to 6-0 in the bottom of the fourth before New Hampstead could even record two outs.
Dalton Ross would single in the seventh run for Statesboro to complete the four-spot in the fourth inning, then Wright Rockett began the fifth with a double of his own.
It would only be one of three hits Statesboro needed in the inning to complete the ten-run win, as two walks and a hit batter helped bring up Ross again, who drove an 0-1 pitch deep to right centerfield to score Wiggins and end the game.
“I thought Griffin pitched very well today,” Simmons said. “He had his fastball working again and really just did a good job of getting the quick outs we were looking for.”
It was a refreshing change of pace for Statesboro, considering they’re only two games off snapping a 12-game skid that started in March 10. The ten runs were the most Statesboro’s scored in a game since the aforementioned win over Richmond Hill — which coincidentally was also the last time the Blue Devils hit a team with the mercy rule.
Coming out ahead of the pack on offense for Statesboro were Wiggins and Ross, who both registered three hits. Wiggins would add a triple and two RBI, while Ross had a double and three RBI. Daniels and Tidick would each drive in two runs as well.
Statesboro (7-18, 2-8) will come back to Mill Creek Park Thursday to finish the series with New Hampstead (12-11, 0-7) in a doubleheader starting at 4:30 p.m.