Southeast Bulloch head coach Brandon Peterson knew Brantley County wasn’t your average No. 4 seed in the state playoffs. The Herons play in one of the best Class-AAA regions in the state and showed their toughness in the opening game of the state playoffs with solid pitching in a 2-0 loss. The wheels came off in the nitecap and the Jackets advance to the second round of the state with a 15-2 victory.
“Brantley County is a good team and have seen good teams all year in region and out of region,” said Peterson. “A lot of times you see in the first round a tight game in the first one, and then things can sometimes get away in the second game and that happened tonight. I was really proud of our guys for playing good defense and coming through with big hits in that first game to get us going.”
Game one was a pitcher duel between Brantley County’s Noah Willis and the Yellow Jackets Gage DiGiovanni. DiGiovanni went seven innings allowing only five hits while striking out seven with just one walk.
The Jackets were able to scrap through with a run in the first as Hunter Williams drove home Riley Emrich with a single to right for a 1-0 SEB lead.
It looked as though the Herons may tie things up in the second but the Jackets came up with a couple nice defensive plays to get out of a jam. DiGiovanni walked the first batter and then promptly picked him off at first. The next batter was Avery Saunds who singled to center, he tried to stretch it into a double but was hung up between first and second and eventually tagged out by Conner Williams for the third out.
The Jackets added another run in the bottom of the fifth. With runners on first and second Nick Anderson drove a single into left which was misplayed by the Heron leftfielder allowing the runner to score from second for a 2-0 lead. That was all DiGiovanni as he shut the Herons down the rest of the way.
“Gage really pitched his butt off out there in the first game,” said Peterson. “We were aggressive on the bases and played solid defense behind him to get the win in game one which was huge to get that momentum.”
Game two saw the Jackets as the visiting team and they’d score in the top of the second as Conner Williams provided an RBI single with the bases loaded. The Jackets added another run as Carter Bowman drew a walk with the bases loaded for a 2-0 lead. Anderson then singled into right field brining home two more runs for a 4-0 lead.
The Herons cut the lead in half with a couple runs in their half of the second to make it 4-2, but the Jackets responded themselves. Tyson Harnage poked a single to right, one run scored and then after a bad throw from the right fielder another run came across for a 6-2 lead. They’d add five more runs and grab an 11-2 lead.
“That was a pivotal part of the game,” said Peterson. “They came back to score two runs and it was tight, but we came back and scored seven runs to really put things away.”
The Jackets pulled away from there scoring four more runs in the fifth and ending the game in the fifth by the mercy rule. Harnage and DiGiovanni both had three hits in the second game and two RBI. Anderson went 2-4 with four RBI. Terry Turner got the win on the mound allowing only one earned run through four innings pitched.
The victory puts the Jackets in the second round of the state for the fifth straight season. Up next Southeast Bulloch will play Redan High School Wednesday for a best of three series. If a third game is needed it will be played Thursday.
“I thought we played solid baseball out there tonight,” said Peterson. “When you get to this point in the season you have to play all three phases of the game. The talent difference from round one to round two is usually pretty significant. We know it’ll be here in Brooklet which is nice.”