Tempers flared in a heated opening-round GISA AAA playoff game between Bulloch Academy and Tiftarea Academy. The Gators split the series with the Panthers in the double header losing 11-10 in Game 1 before keeping their season alive with a 13-5 win in Game 2 Friday afternoon.
The Gators (12-7) let a late lead slip away in Game 1 after leading 10-7 in the top of the sixth inning. Tiftarea’s come-from-behind win wouldn’t be enough to end BA’s season, however. The Gators bounced back in Game 2, coming back from a 4-0 deficit in the top of the fourth.
Brian Harrison led the way offensively, recording four RBIs on the day. Lee Waters had an RBI triple in Game 1 and plated another pair in Game 2.
“I think everybody enjoyed two good baseball games. When kids play hard for someone other than themselves that’s important,” said Bulloch Academy head coach Chris Bishop. “I’m just proud of them. They did exactly what we told them to do.”
The series split Friday sets up a winner-take-all game today with either Bulloch Academy or Tiftarea advancing to the Sweet 16.
With the season on the line for BA, here’s a look at three take aways from Friday’s double-header.
Emotions are High
Bulloch Academy was without its head coach for the majority of the team’s double-header matchup.
In the bottom of the fifth inning in Game 1, designated hitter Jarvis Williams and Tiftarea’s shortstop exchanged words after Williams stole second base. The Panthers' shortstop was ejected, prompting Tiftarea’s head coach to argue the call.
Later in the inning, Bishop and Tiftarea’s head coach would meet on the third base line in a chest-to-chest argument. The umpire ejected both.
“I did not do one thing to be ejected today. Their (Tiftarea) coach flat out came up to me and attacked me, chipped my tooth and got in my face,” said Bishop after the game. “The umpire threw both of us out at the same time, but I don’t blame the umpire. It was a situation that he had to just get it over with.”
The following inning, Tiftarea would rally to take the lead for good. Assistant coach Lawton Brown said both coaches getting thrown out was a big momentum shift, unfortunately that momentum didn’t shift in the Gators’ favor.
Reeves came to play
Starting pitcher Smith Reeves gutted out a complete-game performance in Game 2 with the season on the line for the Gators. BA’s coaching staff decided to save their ace for Game 2 and send pitcher Josh Bishop on the mound for Game 1.
The move paid off for the Gators as Reeves shut the Panthers down after struggling in the first three innings.
“You just have to go out there and pitch to contact. I trust the guys out there behind me,” Reeves said. “I got a lot of run support and I just kept going out there and throwing strikes. I couldn’t find the strike zone early, but when I found it I just kept pounding it, and pounding it.”
Reeves gutsy performance at the plate gives the Gators another opportunity to keep its season alive.
“We knew we had to win Game 2 and we had Smith on the mound who has been solid all year long. We finally hit the ball and that’s really all it takes,” Harrison said.
Williams, Harrison stingy at the plate
If their bats can stay hot, Williams and Harrison will be two tough outs for the Panthers in Game 3. The duo combined to go 12-for-17 in Game 1 and Game 2. Williams added a stolen base and two RBIs for the day.
“When (Williams) hits the ball instead of just trying to put the ball in play we’re hard to beat. I mean if he gets a single, next thing you know he’s on third with two stolen bases,” said Brown after Game 2.
Thanks to Williams’ speed at the plate, Coach Brown called a suicide squeeze play twice in the same inning with the bases-loaded in the top of the fourth.
Davis Childs started the rally with a suicide squeeze, forcing the Panthers into a throwing error. Williams would reach safely with another suicide squeeze.
“I don’t know if anyone has seen that before. Childs lays down a squeeze and then the very next batter we’re going to call it again,” said Brown, laughing after the game. “We scored four runs out there and that’s a credit to Jarvis and Davis. They’re our best bunters on the team.”
Game 3 is scheduled for an 11 a.m. first pitch today.
Horace Holloman may be reached at (912) 489-9408.