The Redan Raiders came into their state Class-AAA Sweet 16 matchup with Southeast Bulloch sporting an impressive 23-4 record and were scoring over 12 runs per game. The Yellow Jackets held them to a total of four runs Wednesday evening, but saw Redan bust out the bats a little in Thursday’s third and decisive game as the Raiders prevailed 7-5 in eight innings ending the Jacket’s season.
The Yellow Jackets didn’t go out without a fight as they battled back from a 5-0 deficit to tie the game 5-5 in the fourth. Southeast Bulloch had quite a few chances to take the lead, but were unable to get the big hits after the fourth inning and a two-run single from Tionne Witherspoon in the top of the eighth proved to be the game winner.
“I am so proud of this group as they battled their butts off the whole series,” said Southeast Bulloch coach Brandon Peterson. “Game two and game three were both nail biters. We went down early and you saw the high character of our kids for fighting back. They ended up getting one more big hit than we did.”
The Jackets loaded the bases in the sixth inning but were unable to get a run home. In the seventh the Jackets had a runner on third and only one out, and a strike out and a ground out to third ended that rally.
Redan opened up a 5-0 lead scoring three runs in the first and adding a pair of runs in the second. From there Jacket senior pitcher Tyson Harnage settled down shutting the Raiders out through the next five innings and giving his team a chance to mount a comeback.
“Tyson left it all out there on the field,” said Peterson. “To throw eight innings out there today when we needed him was such a great effort.”
The Jackets rallied back for a run in the third on a sacrifice fly by Logan Herring to make it 5-1. Gage DiGiovanni then added an RBI double to left to cut the lead to 5-2. In the fourth with two on Riley Emrich ripped a double down the right field line, both runners scored to make it 5-4. DiGiovanni remained hot as he then laced a single to left bringing home Emrich and tying the game at 5-5.
The Raiders went to their bullpen in the top of the fifth and it ended up being a great move. Bernard Moon came in from second base and shut the Jacket bats down for the most part. Moon allowed only two hits in four innings of work and threw 85 pitches in relief.
The Raiders had runners on first and second with no out in the top of the eighth. It looked as though the Jackets may get out of the inning as Harnage got the next two batters out, but with two out and two strikes Tionne Witherspoon poked an opposite field single to left. Emrich came up firing but the throw was a little off the mark and both runners scored.
The Jackets had the tying run on first in the bottom of the eighth but were unable scratch through for a run as the season comes to a close and the high school careers end for the Jacket six seniors coach Peterson has thought quite highly of.
“This has been a special group,” said Peterson. “I love them and I am sure going to miss them. They are great kids who have always worked their butts off. I told our young guys after the game if they want to know how to play this game the right way, they had a whole season to watch how to do it from these guys.”