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Screven baseball advances to Elite Eight
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    SYLVANIA — It seems that for the Screven County Gamecocks, the keys to winning in the playoffs are tight defense, well-conditioned pitching and six-run innings.
    Twice in Wednesday’s doubleheader, SCHS got into early trouble but put together six-run rallies in the fourth and third innings respectively to sweep the Appling County Pirates and advance to the Elite Eight of the GHSA Class AA state playoffs.
    Each batter reached at least once in both games, Screven turned four double plays and Cameron Hayden and Jack Frankhouser both went the distance in the sweep.
    “I couldn’t ask for more out of those two guys,” said Gamecock coach Billy Pollock. “(They struggled) a little bit earlier in the year, but as long as they go on, it seems like they hit cruise mode once they hit about 80 pitches. They made it a little interesting a few times with a couple of walks, but we’ll take the wins and we’ll move on.”
    As for the rest of the playoffs?
    “I feel pretty confident,” said Pollock, “especially with the way Jack and Cameron both are pitching right now. I’m extremely happy with their performance.”
    After coming back to grab the first game of the doubleheader, the Gamecocks once again fell behind. This time, they trailed 5-2 after two.
    The ACHS lead didn’t last long.
    Leadoff hitter Walker Stuart led off the third with a solo shot over the left-field fence, and Derik Johnson walked and stole second to set up a Jeremy Rosier sacrifice.
    Johnson scored from third on an Andrew Reddick single to close the gap to one, and Screven knotted the score at five after a walk and an Appling error loaded the bases and Reddick scored on a Joel Collins grounder.
    Three more runs crossed the plate when right fielder Michael Johnson skied a bases-loaded fly ball to right that was dropped by the Pirate right fielder, putting SC up 8-5.
    Two more runs crossed the plate in the top of the sixth when Michael Johnson and Derik Johnson scored after a Stuart sacrifice, another ACHS fielding error and a Rosier RBI single.
    The Gamecocks used the sacrifice four times in the win.
    “In our ballpark, I guess it’s the fast pitch softball coming out of me a little bit,” said Pollock. “I like putting the ball in play. It puts pressure on the defense. With our speed the way it is … I like to bunt and run a lot. Tonight it paid off.”
    Haydon sealed the win and the trip to the quarterfinals by striking out six Pirates in the final three innings.
    Screven County will take on the winner between North Oconee and Armuchee. If Armuchee pulls out the series, Screven will be at home again next Tuesday, but if No. 1 seed North Oconee wins, the Gamecocks will travel there.

Gamecocks 11,
Pirates 7 – Game 1
    It wasn’t the start to the series that Screven County wanted, but after falling into a 6-1 hole just two innings deep, it came storming back in a big way as Jack Frankhouser went the distance and the Gamecocks took home Game One of the second round in the GHSA Class AA playoffs win an 11-7 win over the visiting Appling County Pirates.
    The Pirates got on the board early, plating six runs in the top of the second on the strength of six hits — including two doubles — and an ACHS error.
    The Gamecocks were methodical in their comeback, scoring once in the second and twice in the third before exploding for six in the bottom of the fourth.
    “It helps to know that you’ve got your teammates behind you,” said Frankhouser (3-for-4, HR, 2B, 3 RBIs, 3 R), who struck out six on his way to the win. “I feel comfortable with them behind me. It’s a team game.”
    Frankhouser put the lead runner on to start the top of the sixth and seventh innings, but a pair of 4-6-3 double plays got Screven out of any trouble.
    “That was huge,” Frankenhouser said about the way his defense was behind him. “It was a rally for the team, and we needed that.”
    The six-run Gamecock rally in the fourth started innocently enough.
    Derik Johnson reached on a Pirate error, and a Jeremy Rosier screamer up the middle put two on. Designated hitter Andrew Reddick went to sacrifice the runners over, but another ACHS error allowed Johnson to score from second. A Jon Rash bunt put runners on second and third, and catcher Garrett Bates gave the Gamecocks the lead for good when his single up the middle scored Reddick and Rash and put the score at 7-6.
    A wild pitch later scored Bates, and three straight hits by Frankhouser, Michael Johnson and Walker Stuart put the score at 10-6.
    “We’re swinging the sticks very well right now,” said Pollock. “We’re being patient right now, but when we see that one pitch, we drive the ball. We’re hitting well from the top to the bottom of the lineup, and that’s what you have to do to win these types of ballgames. When there’s 16 teams left, that’s what you’ve got to do to win a baseball game.”
    Appling got one back in the top of the fifth on an RBI single by Evan Creamer, but Frankhouser’s monster home run down the left-field line put the score at its final margin.
    Johnson and Frankhouser each finished with a multi-hit game, and leadoff hitter Stuart’s fourth-inning single drove in two.

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.