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BA fails in first game of series
Bulloch Academy freshman Bailey Smith slides safely into home, giving the Gators a 2-1 lead in the third inning of Game One in the GISA Class AA first-round playoff series with Christian Heritage Friday. The Lions from Dalton had a five-run rally in the top of the seventh to take an 8-3 victory. - photo by RAHN HUTCHESON/Special to the Herald

            Christian Heritage scored five runs in the top of the seventh inning to break a 3-3 tie and take an 8-3 win in the first game of the GISA Class AA playoff series with Bulloch Academy Friday.

            Michael McKinney blasted a three-run homer over the CMR Properties banner in right field to lead the Lions’ seventh-inning charge. CHS also had back-to-back doubles and an RBI single to put the game out of reach.

            Bulloch (8-8) could not answer back in the bottom of the frame.

            The squads meet today at 11 a.m. in Game Two of the best-of-three series with a third game, if necessary, to immediately follow. As per GISA guidelines, admission is $6 for adults and $3 for students (kindergarten through 12th grade). BA athletic or faculty passes are not valid for playoff games. The only passes which will be accepted are the GISA coaches’ passes (coach and spouse), GAOA officials’ passes and media passes.

            BA junior hurler Walker Blitch pitched a masterful game, giving up three runs on four hits through six innings and getting out of jams with great defensive work from his teammates.

            “He pitched 6 1/3 innings of great baseball,” said Gator assistant coach Chad Huffman. “He was getting ahead in the count and pitching smart. In the sixth, he started getting the pitch count up and Christian Heritage started being more aggressive at the plate.”

            Likewise, McKinney was smooth on the mound, getting the Gators to hit ground balls and flies.

            “Their pitcher did a great job,” said Huffman. “We hit a lot of balls hard but just right at people.”

            McKinney limited Bulloch to just one hit (a Win Lee double) but he and his teammates combined for five errors.

            The Lions took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.

            Walker got into a bind by giving up a double, a walk and a single to load the bases with no outs. But he settled down and the Gator defense did a good job of forcing runners at home to avert early disaster. An obstruction call allowed the Lions’ only run.

            The Gators rallied back in the third.

            Blitch reached on an error and advanced to second on Davis Howell’s sacrifice bunt. Bailey Smith also reached on an error, putting runners at the corners. Loy Waters bounced one back to McKinney on the mound but Smith advanced to second as McKinney held Blitch at third. Taylor Burke ripped a hot shot to second. The ball was mishandled and a hurried throw to first got away. Both Blitch and Smith crossed the plate to give Bulloch a 2-1 lead.

            The Gators added another run in the fourth for a 3-1.

            Clayton Rogers walked and went to second when McKinney’s pick-off throw to first was errant. Rogers took third on Brian Atkinson’s ground out. Blitch walked to put runners on the corners. Howell bounced a shot to second base. As the Lions were trying to turn the double play, Rogers raced home. Howell beat the throw to first which allowed Rogers’ run to count.

            “There were some signs of unselfishness on the base paths,” said Huffman. “When we did things like that, it got us in the position to score. We also played some super defense. We didn’t make a single error and we had some great plays. Walker did a great job on defense up the middle and Lee had a great play in the fifth. The outfield was solid also.”

            In the sixth, Blitch set down the first two CHS batters but then hit the next two. A wild pitch sent both to second and third respectively. Daniel Gross plated both with a single to right for the 3-3 tie.

            In the seventh, the bottom dropped out for Bulloch.
            “Some days you have the luck,” said Huffman. “Some days you don’t. Maybe tomorrow will be our day.”