BROOKLET — For six innings, it didn’t look like it was going to be Southeast Bulloch’s day.
It’s a good thing the Yellow Jackets were slated to play seven.
Trailing Bleckley County by an 8-4 margin with two outs and no runners on base in the final inning, SEB pulled a miracle out of its pocket.
Seven consecutive Jackets reached base and Gage Weaver’s single to left sent Ryan Adams racing home from second for a 9-8 lead.
Three outs later, there was pandemonium on the field as SEB celebrated clinching a spot in the GHSA Class AA state playoffs.
“I’ve seen a whole lot of baseball in my life,” said SEB coach Brandon Peterson. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like that. It’s really a credit to our guys. They just never stopped playing hard.”
After winning Game 1 of the series Saturday, the Yellow Jackets (18-6) looked to be in great shape, but Bleckley rallied in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader to force a decisive Game 3. The Royals seemed to be in line to ruin SEB’s season until the last inning magic happened.
Eli Page began the rally with a single and Taylor Burroughs (4-for-4, 2 RBIs) doubled Page home.
Tyler Epps hit what could have been the game’s final out with a bouncer to Bleckley pitcher Kayce Kirkpatrick, but the Royals’ lefty couldn’t handle it and Epps reached.
Seth Morgan knocked in Burroughs with a single to make it 8-6 and — while Morgan found himself in a rundown and managed to retreat to first base safely — Epps advanced to third.
Bleckley had one more chance to end it when Ryan Adams hit a grounder to shortstop, but Adams’ hustle forced a wild throw and Morgan — running hard all the way — was able to score the tying run from first.
Blake Fulmer advanced Adams to second with a single to set the stage for Weaver’s go-ahead hit.
With three more outs to go, Weaver strode to the mound to finish the job.
Bleckley advanced the tying run to second with two outs, but Weaver struck out Dusty Jones swinging to end it.
“It was exciting,” said Weaver. “It was a big swing of emotion. Everyone was really up in the last inning even though we had our doubts. Once we came back, I just had to stay calm and get through the last inning.”
Adams gave SEB a 2-0 lead with a two-run single in the top of the first, but the Royals quickly seized control of the game.
Dusty Jones (2-for-4, RBI, 2 runs) led off the bottom of the inning with an infield single. Caleb Bryant drew a walk off SEB starter Morgan and Kyle Brown flied out to right before Cody Jones knocked in Dusty Jones with a single to left.
Disaster struck for the Jackets on the next play as Bryant Jones bounced a possible double play ball to Tyler Epps, but Epps’ throw sailed into right field. The error brought home Bryant and allowed Cody Jones to advance to third. A sacrifice fly by Frankie Lee Mullins scored Cody Jones and a botched pickoff attempt with two outs brought Trice in to make it 4-2 Royals.
“We had some errors, but bounced back,” said Peterson. “This is a young team, but we kept our heads up and made some great plays to stay in it later on.”
The Royals pushed ahead two more runs in the bottom of the fourth thanks to some timely hitting.
Mullins led off with a walk and advanced to second as SEB recorded to outs before Dusty Jones and Bryant came through with back-to-back two-out RBI hits to make it 6-2.
Not willing to lay down, the Jackets came storming back in the fifth.
Tyler Brown and Aaron Rowe each singled to lead off the frame and Burroughs blooped an RBI double down the right field line.
Epps knocked in Rowe with a sacrifice fly to pull within 6-4, but Dusty Jones chased down Morgan’s two-out liner to center to stop the damage.
With the win, the Jackets advance to one final Region 3-AA game to determine state playoff seeding.
SEB will host Dublin either Thursday or Friday for the No. 3 state seed.
Sub-region champions Screven County and Dodge County each won their region playoff series and will square off for the No. 1 seed.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.