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Seb goes down to the wire with West Laurens
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Matt Conner winds and delivers against West Laurens for Southeast Bulloch Friday night in Brooklet. Conner and the Yellow Jackets went nine innings with the Raiders, eventually falling 6-5. - photo by GRAYSON HOFFMAN/Herald Correspondent
    BROOKLET — It took two extra innings, but — on the strength of a David Ogden sacrifice RBI — the West Laurens Raiders defeated the Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets 6-5 on the fourth day of the SEB Yellow Jacket baseball tournament.
    The contest started out as a pitcher’s battle. Raider starter David Helton pitched four innings, striking out four Yellow Jackets and allowing only two runs on three hits. He threw 57 pitches. Southeast Bulloch starter Matt Conner was pitching lights out, allowing no earned runs (one unearned) and striking out seven in the first three innings of play. He was pulled in the fourth.
    “(Conner) was on a pitch count,” said SEB coach Stephen Hoyle. “It’s early in the season, and we don’t let these guys throw too much early. We’ve got a long season ahead of us.”
    The fourth inning contained an interesting way to go about a 1-2-3-inning for the Yellow Jackets. After a double, a bunt-single, and a stolen base put runners on second and third with no outs for the Raiders, a double play was turned when Helton grounded to third, allowing SEB third baseman Joseph Wilson to tag the runner and nail Helton at first. When David Ogden was caught stealing third, the Yellow Jackets turned a 1-2-3 inning while allowing a single, a double, and a stolen base.
    With SEB up 2-1, WLHS broke things open in the top of the fifth inning. Adam McCullars and Brandon Cliatt had back-to-back RBI singles, with Cliatt driving in two.
    The Yellow Jackets were able to bounce right back and reclaim their one-run lead in the bottom of the inning. Raider pitcher Davey Hartley replaced Helton, and after a Cory Ward single, a catcher’s interference call and a walk loaded the bases for Southeast Bulloch, Fisher Strickland cleared the bases with a long single that drove in all three.
    Hartley was able to get out of trouble when Strickland was thrown out trying to stretch his single into a double. With the bases empty, a pair of ground-outs got WLHS out of the inning.
    Trailing 5-4 in the top of the seventh, The Raiders were able to tie the game and send it to extra innings when Adam McCullars drove in Jeremy Lord with a clutch single.
    The Raiders scored the game-winning run two innings later. Raider coach Brian Brown was thankful for opportunities like the one this preseason game provides for his squad.
    “This early in the season, these are the kind of games we need,” said Brown. “That is the number one reason why I decided to get into these tournaments. I knew we were going to face some good ball teams. Southeast Bulloch has an outstanding baseball team… we are very fortunate to come out on top tonight.”
    The tournament concludes today with Southeast Bulloch honoring their 1980 Region Champion team in a ceremony following the last game.
    West Laurens returns to action at 9 a.m. against Portal, and SEB will wrap up the tournament against Claxton at 5 p.m.

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