Despite a season with more downs than ups, the Statesboro Blue Devils had a chance to sew up a spot in the state playoffs with a win Thursday against New Hampstead. The Blue Devils were hosting the Phoenix in a doubleheader and a single win would clinch a spot in the state. Statesboro not only won the first, but swept them both, winning 7-0 in game one and 7-2 in the nitecap, locking up the fourth seed out of its region in the state playoffs.
“Goal number one was making it to the state playoffs,” said Statesboro coach Jim Simmons. “We didn’t achieve a few of the other goals, but I feel we are in the middle of a four game winning streak, and our kids are playing with some confidence.”
The Blue Devils jumped out to early leads in both games, and got two solid performances on the mound. Mikal Mascarello allowed only one hit and struck out 12 batters in game one. Bradley Gronefeld finished with 11 strikeouts and gave up five hits in game two.
“I thought our pitchers did a great job of pounding the strike zone,” Simmons said. “We came out and swung the bats tonight, ran the bases well, and played solid defense in both games.”
Statesboro jumped out to an early lead in game one. J.D. Kaiser beat out an infield hit, Davis Wiggins followed with a double to right field, Mascarello then hit a flare to right that fell for a single, pinch runner Ryan Lindsey scored for a 1-0 lead.
Jackson Proctor kept the inning going with a sacrifice fly to center plating Wiggins from third for a 2-0 lead. Blake Stanford then came through with an RBI single to center to make it 3-0.
The Blue Devils added a couple more runs in the second. With the bases loaded Wiggins hit a two run single to left to give Statesboro a 5-0 lead.
Statesboro had a chance to put the game away in the fourth as they loaded the bases with no out, but were only able to scratch through for one run, that coming on a walk to Austin Arendes, which forced in a run, for a 6-0 lead.
In the fifth Statesboro scored their final run of the game on an RBI single from Gronefeld that plated Wright Rocket for the final score of 7-0.
Mascarello did the rest on the mound, striking out the side in the second and third innings, and finishing with 12 strikeouts in six innings of work.
“I was very impressed with Mikal tonight,” Simmons said. “It was good to see him come back, after having that shoulder soreness early in the season. His strike percentage was as good as I’ve seen it.”
The recipe for a win in game two was much the same as in game one. Statesboro jumped out to another early lead, and Gronefeld shut down the Phoenix bats on the mound.
In the first Gronefeld and Kaiser got back to back hits, then with runners on the corners, Wiggins hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring pinch runner Harrison Hughes for a 1-0 lead. Mascarello reached on an error, which was followed by a double steal, an error on the throw to third allowed pinch runner Lindsey to score for a 2-0 lead.
The runs continued in the first as with runners on second and third Arendes hit a single to right, which scored both runners for a 4-0 Statesboro lead.
The Blue Devils scored another run in the fourth on a wild pitch to make it 5-0. New Hampstead then lost their pitcher and catcher who were both ejected for arguing with the umpires in the fourth inning.
New Hampstead cut the lead to 5-1 in the fifth, but Statesboro quickly got two more runs in the bottom of the inning. Davis Wiggins was hit by a pitch, and then Proctor sent a deep fly ball to left, which was bobbled, and dropped by the left fielder. Wiggins scored easily, and Proctor hustled all the way around the bases home for a 7-1 lead.
Gronefeld did his job stymying the Phoenix batters for most of the game. Gronefeld struck out the side in the first and second innings, and finished the game with 11 strikeouts in six innings of work.
“Bradley has been solid all season for us,” SImmons said. “He struggled with the first two batters, but settled in and threw a great game.”
Statesboro improves to 6-21 overall and 5-7 in region play. The Blue Devils earned the fourth seed in the region. There is no region tournament so they will also be the fourth seed in the state playoffs. Statesboro wraps up the regular season with three games next week against Glynn Academy. Game one is Monday at 6 p.m. in Brunswick.