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Blue Devils top Gainesville at J.I. Clements
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    Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth, it looked as though Statesboro’s old problem of struggling to score runs was about to raise its ugly head.
    But Zack Taylor hit a mammoth triple off the right field wall to score Josh Ware and tie the game, providing the spark that would lead to three more runs and a 5-2 SHS win over visiting Gainesville Thursday at J.I. Clements Stadium on the campus of Georgia Southern.
    “As a team we just thought, ‘See it — hit it’. We just did a job up there,” said Taylor who finished 2-for-4 with a double, triple, an RBI and a run scored.
    After Taylor’s three-bagger off the BB&T sign in right, Scott Sarratt singled past a drawn-in infield to left to give the Blue Devils (2-2) a 3-2 lead. Aaron Cone reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second then advanced to third on a wild pitch. Crawford Simmons then singled off second baseman Blaine Martin’s glove to make it 4-2.
    Carlton Hendrix sliced a single to right scoring courtesy runner Hunter Collins.
    “We really worked on that quite a bit,” said SHS head coach Chris Bishop of the clutch hitting. “The kids had been reading the paper, they saw it and wanted to prove something to themselves tonight and they did a good job.”

    The Devils had stranded 11 runners in a 7-1 loss to Luella on Saturday after leaving the tying runner on base in a 5-4 loss to Starr’s Mill the day before.
    Thursday was close to being the same story before the fifth inning outburst. The rest was left up to freshman Trey Robinson.
    Robinson entered the top of the fifth with two outs, one already in and a runner on third. He induced a lazy pop to short to end the inning. In the sixth, Robert Hughes doubled down the line with one out and then Zach Thellman singled moving Hughes to third. Justin Fordham popped to short bringing up slugger Robby Hefflinger. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound catcher had a walk and two doubles under his belt when he came up to face Robinson.
    Robinson put a 1-0 pitch on the outside of the plate and Hefflinger ripped it — right into a diving Ware’s glove at shortstop. It was the first career win for Robinson.
    “It feels larger than life,” he said with a big smile.
    Statesboro jumped on the board in the first after Ware singled and Taylor doubled him home. Sarratt walked and Aaron Cone singled to load the bases, but Gainesville starter Max Joseph struck out the side from there to escape further damage. Joseph pitched 41⁄3, allowing four runs on seven hits. He K’d eight before giving way to Eric Tarnocki in the fifth.
    The Red Elephants (0-2) scored a run in the third off SHS starter Tony Hill. The Southern University commit struggled with his control all night. Hefflinger doubled with one out to start the rally, then courtesy runner Andy Edmondson scored on Sloan Strickland’s fielder’s choice.
    Hill walked five and struck out six in four innings of work. He threw 75 pitches.
    Josh Blakely entered in the fifth and surrendered GHS’ second run. It was Hefflinger again starting the rally with another two-bagger and Edmondson scoring on a Strickland double.
    “As a team we played great defensively,” said Taylor. “The bats got up and pitching did great and hopefully this will be some momentum (heading into this weekend).”
    Statesboro begins a five-game road trip today, traveling to Lowndes County for a 7 p.m. game. Gainesville continues its trek south, playing in the Baseball at the Beach Tournament in Brunswick.
    Chad Bishop can be reached at (912) 489-9408.