After being victimized by the big inning multiple times this season, Statesboro finally turned the tables.
The Blue Devils scored three runs in the first inning and exploded for four more in the fifth to top Thomson by a 7-5 margin Saturday afternoon at Mill Creek Regional Park.
For the Devils (2-7, 0-2 Region 2-AAAA), the win marked one of the most complete games that they have put together all season.
“We just did all of the little things right,” said SHS coach Chris Bishop. “It really wasn’t anything special. That’s not taking anything away from our team, because they played very well, but that just goes to show what we can accomplish when we play a complete game and give maximum effort.”
The first inning has been a pitfall for the Devils for much of the season and Nick Raw’s RBI single in the opening frame looked to continue the trend, but Statesboro starter Will Stewart was up to the challenge and surrendered just two runs and four hits in over three innings of work.
“That was pretty impressive for a 14 year old,” said Bishop. “He pitched very well today. Will threw his fastball for strikes all day and mixed some guys up by pitching backwards and confusing them with his off-speed pitches.”
After Thomson’s run in the top of the first, Statesboro quickly gained the lead and never looked back.
Quantae Huff began what would become a 4-for-4 performance with a leadoff single and came in to score on a double by Kendrick Thompson.
Justin Mee gave the Devils the lead with an RBI single and worked his way around the base paths before scoring on a bunt single by Lance Mangrum.
“It was great to get an early lead,” said Bishop. “We haven’t had a whole lot of opportunities to play with a lead this season. It was good to see everyone respond once we got in front.”
Stewart continued to stifle the Bulldog bats until Raw blasted a hanging curve over the left field wall to start the fourth inning.
Ricky Cook entered from the SHS bullpen and was very effective, retiring all three batters he faced in his only inning of work.
“Ricky was another freshman that came up big,” said Bishop. “It was impressive to see the young guys get it done against a very good opponent.”
Statesboro blew the game open in the bottom of the fifth with some timely hitting.
Heydon Rollins’ flare single to center plated Jackson Ware for a 4-2 lead and Mangrum added a two-out single that scored Huff.
With two outs, Colin Chance launched a two-run double off the left field fence that proved to be the difference in the game.
“Just having some things go our way will give everyone some confidence,” said Bishop. “I know that Thomson was coming off a tough region game last night, but they’re still a very good team. For us to have some young guys pitch well and then get some big hits in big situations, I don’t see where anything but good things could come of it.”
Thompson took the mound in the fifth and retired the side in order, but ran into trouble in the sixth.
Abe Cartledge and Josh Jones each smacked doubles down the left field line to bring three Bulldog baserunners across the plate, but a great grab by Chance on a foul popup and a soft grounder got the Devils out of trouble.
A one-out single in the top of the seventh brought the tying run to the plate for Thomson, but Phillip Anderson bounced into a 5-4-3 double play to send the Devils into the win column in style.
“It was just a very solidly played game by our guys,” said Bishop. “That’s how we need to approach every game. If we can do that, more wins will come.”
Statesboro will have a short break before returning to Mill Creek Friday to host Lakeside, Evans in a region matchup.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.