Statesboro’s pitching proved to be suspect again as the Blue Devils dropped a 10-4 decision to Lee County Saturday afternoon at Mill Creek Regional Park.
The Devils (0-3) battled the Trojans (2-1) throughout the first few frames, but the wheels came flying off in the top of the fifth.
Already trailing 5-2, four Blue Devil pitchers combined to walk six batters as Lee County broke the game wide open with five runs in the inning.
Ricky Cook and Dylan Johnson each walked in a run before Ryan Horne launched a two-out, three-run double to make it a 10-2 ballgame.
“We’re struggling on the mound right now,” said SHS coach Chris Bishop. “We’re throwing the ball alright. Teams aren’t getting a ton of hits, but when you walk people, it’ll come back to haunt you.
“You figure that most guys at bat are going to get out about 70 percent of the time, but when we walk guys, they’re getting down to first base 100 percent of the time.”
The Trojans managed just five hits on the day, but too often there were runners on base via walk when those hits occurred, and what could have been a minor issue for the Devils turned into a game-changing problem.
Making his first start of the season, Statesboro’s Trey Robinson dug himself into some early trouble.
Robinson put the first three Lee County batters on base, walking Luke Roland, hitting Peyton Wade and issuing another free pass to Chase Griffin as Roland came around to score on a wild pitch.
Daniel Nichols added to the damage with an RBI double to left, but the Devils were able to cut down Griffin at the plate on a great relay throw from Kendrick Thompson.
Nichols advanced to third and then scored on two more Robinson wild pitches, but Mitchell Kearney came in from the SHS bullpen to keep the Trojan lead at 3-0.
The Blue Devils bounced back in the bottom of the first as Hayden Rollins was hit by a pitch and Thompson singled to left.
After a grounder advanced both runners, a routine ground ball off the bat of Justin Mee was thrown away, allowing Rollins and Thompson to come in and pulling the Devils within 3-2 after the first inning of play.
“I’m pretty happy with how we’re going at the plate,” said Bishop. “We should hit pretty well. I think that will improve when our pitching gets a little better. When you aren’t giving up runs, the offense doesn’t feel like it needs to press.”
Kearney pitched two more scoreless innings, but Trojan starter Chase Burnfin was just as effective, and the Devils couldn’t pull even.
Burnfin surrendered just three hits in his six innings of work, and Matt Mears pitched a scoreless seventh to seal the Trojan win.
After emerging from the bullpen to finally get Statesboro out of trouble in the fifth inning, Will Stewart helped his own cause with a two-run single that plated Rollins and Thompson. Stewart’s hit brought the score to 10-4, but Nichols snared a line drive from Ben Saunders that could have pulled the Devils closer.
“We’ll just keep sending guys out there until we see who is going to throw strikes,” said Bishop. “We’ve got plenty of arms, and we can score enough to win. We just need to find the guys that we can count on when region play starts.”
Statesboro will host Savannah Christian Tuesday and will travel to Swainsboro Thursday before beginning Region 2-AAAA play March 8 at South Effingham.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.