BROOKLET — The deepest postseason run that Southeast Bulloch baseball has made in nearly half a century nearly surged on Wednesday afternoon, but came up just a few runs short of the state semifinals.
Taking on Lovett in a winner-take-all Game 3 after splitting a Wednesday doubleheader, the Yellow Jackets twice erased a one-run deficit to pull even with the eight-time state champions from Atlanta. But the Lions took advantage of some walks and wildness from an SEB pitching staff that had been pushed to the max, scoring a pair in the bottom of the sixth and preventing any rallies in the seventh to move on to the Class AAA Final Four.
“I’ve got nothing but pride and appreciation for our boys,” SEB coach Brandon Peterson said. “A pitch or a play here and there could have made things turn out differently, but we left it all out there and that’s all you can ask. Lovett has a great program and our guys didn’t blink. We just didn’t quite come out on top.”
Playing as the visiting team after losing a pregame coin flip, SEB found itself in a hole immediately as Yellow Jacket starting pitcher Blaize Minick walked Lovett’s Evan McKnown to begin the bottom of the first. Minick didn’t allow a hit in the inning, but another walk and two hit batters allowed McKnown to work his way around the base paths to score.
Wyatt Nelson took the hill for the Lions and — with his team’s season hanging in the balance — came up big. Nelson allowed just two hits through the first three innings and ultimately claimed the win for Lovett.
But SEB wasn’t about to go down without a fight.
Slade Burgin kept the Jackets alive with a two-out single in the fourth inning. A Lovett error allowed the inning to continue and a single by Toby Williams tied the game up at 1-1.
The Lions regained a 2-1 edge in the bottom of the fourth, but SEB struck back again in the fifth when Peyton Carr singled home Tyler Deloach to knot things up again.
But that was the last gasp for the Jackets. Minick exited in the sixth inning and Lovett scored a pair of runs on wild pitches to go up 4-2. Two fly outs began the seventh for SEB and - while Chase Walker reached base to get the tying run to the plate — one more lazy fly ball put an understated end to a season that was anything but.
“This team had a great season and really came on strong over the last two weeks,” Peterson said.
The SEB coach also recognized a senior class that won a pair of region titles and advanced past the first round of state three times.
“We’re going to miss the players, but we’re going to miss the people they are even more. They have accomplished so much for this program. We’ve set the bar higher and higher each year.
“This was a great season. Next year, it will be time for the younger guys to set the bar higher again.”