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Devils blank Lakeside on SHS senior night
Simmons strikes out 15 in two-hit masterpiece
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The Statesboro baseball seniors, pictured left to right: Jake Ware, Carlton Hendrix, Brandon Wilson, Tony Hill and Josh Blakely. - photo by CHAD BISHOP/staff
    There’s just no other way to put it: Crawford Simmons was unhittable.
    Statesboro’s junior lefty struck out 15 in six innings, shutting down Lakeside 5-0 on Senior Night at Mill Creek Thursday.
    “He was sick,” said first baseman Luke Connell about Simmons. “I mean how good is he every night?”
    Simmons (4-1) entered Thursday with a 0.70 ERA. He threw 101 pitches, allowed just two hits and guessed he threw just three curve balls.
    “The fast ball and change-up combination was just working,” he said. “I really wasn’t feeling the curve ball so I just stayed with what was working.”
    Simmons struck out the side in the fourth and sixth and sandwiched a pair in between in the fifth. Every starter for LHS (10-9, 4-4 Region 3-AAAA) struck out at least once and only three batters escaped the K.
    The Panthers had four base runners but stranded them all.
    Chris Burns led off the game with a single — but was picked off first. Mike Graham and Chaston Weaver then walked with one out, but Simmons struck out Ryan Hutchins to end the threat.
    Simmons’ offense gave him five runs, four more than he needed.
    “When Crawford’s pitching, we just feel if we get a handful of runs we’re in a good position,” said senior shortstop Josh Ware.
    Zack Taylor started Statesboro’s first rally with a two-out, grass-cutter of a double in the first.  Scott Sarratt singled to make it 1-0 then Connell ripped a double to left center to score courtesy runner Aaron Cone.
    Senior Carlton Hendrix reached on an E6 to make it 3-0.
    Senior third baseman Brandon Wilson walked with one out in the second. Ware singled to left to increase the advantage to four.
    In the fifth, senior Tony Hill was plunked to lead off the inning. He then stole second and Connell drove him with two outs with a single to left.
    Hill got a 1-2-3 seventh to close the game.
    Lakeside starter Chris Morris went five innings and settled down after the rough first. He allowed eight hits.
    Josh Blakely, Ware, Hill, Hendrix and Wilson played their last home game of the regular season Thursday. They were honored on the field during postgame.
    “They played a lot of baseball and all of them have made a lot of improvements,” said SHS coach Chris Bishop. “They’ve all contributed in a major way and we’ll surely miss them.”
    Odds are slim the Devils will return home this season, as SHS (10-10, 3-5 Region 3-AAAA) will face No. 1 seed Wayne County in the first round of the region tournament next weekend.
    “We do know in the back of our minds this could be our last (home) game of the year,” said Ware. “We don’t want it to end. If we just keep the momentum going and roll through the region playoffs we’ll have good shot.”
    The Blue Devils end their season Monday at Vidalia, a team they beat 18-3 earlier in the campaign. First pitch is at 5:30 p.m.

    Chad Bishop can be reached at (912) 489-9408.