It was a pretty ending to an ugly night.
Statesboro was able to survive issuing 11 walks and committing three errors to force extra innings, and a bases-loaded, eighth inning single by William Golden clinched a 7-6 win over Screven County Wednesday night at Mill Creek Regional Park.
Starting his first varsity game, Statesboro’s D.J. Grimes walked a tightrope through the first inning.
An error put Dalton Mills on first base and a walk to Austin Peel had Screven in business. The Gamecocks looked to break through as Jonathan Long lined a single to right, but Blue Devil right fielder Haydon Rollins came up throwing and nailed Mills at the plate.
Grimes issued a walk to load the bases, but regrouped to strike out the next two Screven batters and end the threat.
“This was D.J.’s first time out there getting varsity innings,” said Bishop. “He handled himself well even though he struggled a little. He’s capable of throwing better than he did and I’m sure we’ll see that in time.”
The Devils took an early lead in the bottom half of the first.
Kendrick Thompson led off with a single and walks to Justin Mee and William Golden loaded the bases. Chris Lusted grounded to shortstop to bring Thompson home, but Statesboro couldn’t manage any further damage in the frame.
The Devils took advantage of a pair of Gamecock miscues to stretch the lead in the third inning.
John Eddie Hodges reached on a one-out error and advanced to third on a pair of wild pitches. Quantae Huff drew a walk and stole second to put two runners in scoring position for Thompson with two outs.
The Gamecocks looked to be out of the inning as Screven starter Deonte Badger coaxed a ground ball, but it was booted, and both Hodges and Huff scored to give the Devils a 5-2 advantage.
Statesboro’s pitching struggles caught up in the top of the fourth.
Two walks and a hit batter helped to load the bases, and a pair of wild pitches from Trey Robinson each brought in a run. Trey Anthony knotted the score with an RBI groundout, and Blake Evans gave the Gamecocks a 6-5 lead with an RBI triple to right center.
“We issued a lot of walks and struggled to throw strikes,” said Bishop. “It was unacceptable, but we got through it. A lot of these guys are still really young, so it’s just something we have to improve on.”
Another error allowed Trey Robinson to score, tying the game at 6-6 in the bottom of the fifth, and Thompson took charge on the mound to begin the sixth inning. The sophomore righty struck out two and allowed just two base runners in the final three innings to pick up the win.
“Kendrick has some electric stuff,” said Bishop. “He really came through for us tonight. He had all of his pitches working and got the big outs when we needed them.”
Quantae Huff began the winning rally with a leadoff double off of Mills in the eighth. Thompson was intentionally walked before a grounder by Mee was mishandled to load the bases.
Seizing the opportunity, Golden lined the first pitch he saw from Mills into shallow center to bring Huff home with the winning run.
“I was glad to see William come through,” said Bishop. “We had some chances in the two innings before and we couldn’t convert. When I saw that the infield was in with nobody out for William, I was confident that he would get the job done.”
Statesboro gets back to region play with a pair of home games to end the week. The Devils host Brunswick Friday evening before taking on Effingham County Saturday afternoon.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.