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Thorton pitches SEB past Islands in key region win

Southeast Bulloch’s 7-6 loss to Jenkins Friday put the Yellow Jackets in a tough place — lose another region game and lose the region all together.
    So it goes without saying SEB did themselves a huge favor Tuesday evening when the took out Islands 4-1 to lock up the series sweep of the Sharks. The win puts SEB 7-1 in region, barely ahead of Jenkins via a runs-allowed tiebreaker for a potential region title and a No. 1 seed looking towards the playoffs in a couple of weeks.
    “This was a big step towards what we want to do,” said head coach Brandon Peterson. “But we can’t take anything for granted from here on out. Every region game counts the same.”
    Considering their only region games left on the schedule are against a miserly set of foes — Groves, Windsor Forest and Beach — SEB did most of the heavy lifting to keep themselves in contention on Tuesday. The first game against the Sharks ended 4-3 in favor of SEB in Savannah, so another tough contest was to be expected on their home diamond.
    Even as SEB racked up eight hits and 16 baserunners against Islands pitcher Kole Newman, the Yellow Jackets still struggled to push a substantial number of runs across home plate to take some pressure off their own hurler. Tyler Thorton, who's been a big part of SEB’s success this season, pitched a formidable game when his team needed it most.
    Thorton pitched six innings, allowed two hits, three walks and just one unearned run while striking out another three batters. Thorton, along with Bryce Harnage, have been the heavy lifters on the mound for Peterson and it’s carried his team a long way when the offense can’t hit it’s stride.
    “He threw the ball outstanding tonight, our bats were quiet early tonight and kept us in the game,” Peterson said. “He’s been great all year. But that goes towards the entire staff, Bryce and Cole (Mincey) too.”
    Despite Thorton’s great performance on the bump, SEB would leave the bases loaded twice Tuesday evening and left at least two runners stranded twice. As a matter of fact it would be Thorton himself who would get a rally going in the bottom of the fourth to generate some run support.
    Batting in the nine hole with one out, Thorton grabbed hold of a 0-1 pitch and drove it just inside the right field foul line to give himself a double. He’d then advance to third on a wild pitch, then following a walk he’d walk the next 90 feet off a Cole Mincey single to right field.
    Mincey’s single would break a then 1-1 tie in favor of SEB. Now with runners at first and second, Harnage would be hit by a pitch to load the bases and the third run would be brought home by a slow-dribbler to second by Joe Ham — which couldn’t be turned in time for the double play.
    However the bottom of the fourth would be one of the innings SEB would leave at least two runners on base by the third out. In total SEB left 12 runners on base, something Peterson says can’t happen if they want avoid close games.
    “It’s not that out guys aren’t battling at the plate, but we just have to take advantage of our two out hits,” Peterson said. “We just haven’t been very fortunate with lately, but we’re going to work on it.”
    In addition to his numbers on the mound, Thorton was 2-2 at the plate with a walk and a run scored. Mincey would add a 2-4 night with an RBI, a run scored and the save, while Dylan Ruarks and Ham would be credited with RBI as well.
    SEB (9-5, 7-1) will play a two-game, non-region break before the Savannah-area spring break starting with a trip to Screven County on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. then traveling to Guyton to face South Effingham on April 12 at 6:00 p.m.