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Devils top Knights, 7-6

It’s been a rough season for Statesboro baseball, but the Blue Devils put a silver lining on their year with a 7-6 win over Evans on Friday night at Mill Creek Regional Park in the last game of their Region 2-AAAA schedule.
    Trailing 7-1 going into the seventh inning, the Knights mounted a rally. Three Blue Devil pitchers combined to allow five runs on three walks, two hits, and error and a hit batsman, but Tyler Brown — making his first varsity appearance of the season — was able to slam the door on Evans.
    “It got a little scary out there, but we stayed calm,” said SHS coach Chris Bishop. “Tyler was pretty impressive at the end. He’s not usually a guy that gets a lot of swings and misses, but we knew he’d throw strikes. He came up with two big strikeouts and then we got out of here with a win.”
    Statesboro exploded in the first inning thanks to some timely hitting and some help from Evans starter Kyle Stark.
    Heydon Rollins was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and advanced to third on a single by Quantae Huff. Kendrick Thompson then walked to load the bases before Stark hit Lance Mangrum with a pitch to force in Rollins with the game’s first run.
    Ben Saunders followed with a single that scored Huff and Thompson and Justin Mee finished off the rally with a two-out, two-run double down the left field line.
    “We just did a good job of starting well,” said Bishop. “We took advantage of some things early on and then did a great job defensively of keeping Evans from starting rallies.”
    Given the early lead, Statesboro starter D.J. Grimes efficiently worked through the first six innings to earn his second win in as many starts against the Knights this season.
    “We’ve seen a lot of improvement out of D.J. this year,” said Bishop. “Tonight, he did a great job of staying ahead of batters and getting the first guy out each inning. When you do that, you’ll keep a lot of leads.”
    The lanky righty efficiently worked through the Evans lineup, coaxing grounder after grounder and keeping the Knights from hitting much of anything squarely.
    Grimes scattered eight hits through six-plus innings, but exited after allowing a double and a walk in the seventh.
    Mitchell Kearney relieved, but hit Jordan Rice and walked Garrett Wilkinson to force in a run and cut the Devil lead to 7-2.
    Brown then entered the game for SHS, but was greeted by a two-run single by Bradley Spires. Brown sat down the next two batters on strikes before the game’s dramatic final play.
    Stark grounded to shortstop, but Thompson’s throw sailed wide of first. Two Knights runners scored, but Stark didn’t see Spires hold at second on the overthrow and the Devils erased Stark in a rundown for the final out.
    The Devils pushed across the winning runs in the fifth inning when Colin Chance singled home Mangrum and Trey Robinson came around from first base on another double by Mee.
    With the win, Statesboro denied Evans of a chance to clinch the top spot out of the ‘A’ sub-region of 2-AAAA.
    Statesboro will not advance to postseason play, but will travel to Savannah Christian and Lakeside before closing out the season with a home game against Richmond Hill next Friday.

    Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.