April 17, 2014

Prep roundup: Coahulla Creek hurts N. Murray’s playoff hopes

VARNELL — One play in the fifth inning, during which the sun got in pitcher Braiden Jacobs’ eyes, seemed to encapsulate the entire season for Coahulla Creek High School’s baseball team.

But it could be one rule misinterpretation that defines the season for North Murray.

North Murray was tied with Adairsville for fourth in the Region 5-3A standings entering Wednesday’s game at Coahulla Creek. The Mountaineers blew a five-run lead and gave up the winning run on a ruling by the umpires in the bottom of the sixth in a 7-5 loss to the Colts.

With the game tied at 5 in the sixth, Coahulla Creek (6-14, 3-8) had runners at first and second after a pair of one-out walks when catcher Jackson Sheppard hit a liner to Alex Viars at second base. Viars snagged the out and threw to first in an attempt to catch Levi Wilson off base and get the double play. The ball soared past first and into the North Murray (8-14, 5-6) dugout.

According to the baseball rules published by the National Federation of State High School Associations, which are used by the Georgia High School Association, runners should be awarded one base in the event that a ball thrown from the infield goes into a dugout. Instead, Coahulla Creek’s runners at first and second were awarded two bases, bringing Hayden Lock in to score and putting Sheppard at third. Sheppard scored later in the inning on a balk for the final margin of victory.

But it was a misinterpretation of the rules in the top of the fifth that caused the repeat problem in the sixth.

With runners of first and second, North Murray’s Brody Frazier delivered an RBI single to center field to bring in Cole Vaughn, who had reached after getting hit by a pitch. Coahulla Creek held the Mountaineers’ runners at first and second, getting the ball to third baseman Zack Glines. He then threw the ball back to Jacobs, who was looking into the setting sun.

The ball got past Jacobs and rolled into the North Murray dugout. The umpires awarded Lake Burris — the runner at second — home, giving the Mountaineers a run, while Frazier went to third. According to the rule book, two bases are awarded only on a throw into a dugout from the outfield.

So when the same situation occurred in the bottom of the sixth, the umpires again awarded two bases.

“(The umpire’s) explanation was that they did it earlier, so they have to do it now,” North Murray coach John Redmond said. “We gave up a five-run lead and had some plays that didn’t get made and some balls that fell in for hits. It is on us.”

North Murray had taken that lead on a two-run homer in the second inning by Blake Davis and by getting another run across in the third as Harper scored on a passed ball. The two runs in the top of the fifth made it a 5-0 advantage and Coahulla Creek had touched North Murray starter Aaron Granger for just two hits entering the fifth.

But a walk to Michael Ward and back-to-back hits from Ethan Whaley and Lock brought in Ward and put runners at the corner and cut the lead to 5-1. Sheppard followed with a walk, while Jacobs delivered a bloop single to right to score Whaley, who was the only player with multiple hits. He went 2-for-4 with a double.

With two outs and the bases loaded, Erick Dominguez hit a diving liner to left that bounced out of the glove of North Murray’s Drake Fowler to bring in two more runs. Justin Cole chased Granger with a single to center to bring in Glines and tie the game 5-5.

“I knew Coahulla was scrappy,” Redmond said. “We had gotten a couple of key pitches and a couple of key plays earlier to get out of some things, so watching the game, you just felt like it was a matter of time. I didn’t think they would punch through for five in one inning like that, but they did a good job.”

Coahulla Creek coach Michael Bolen said little plays like the throw to Jacobs have been all too common this season, but his team has never stopped fighting.

“This is the first season we have had where we were eliminated from the playoffs early like this, but they keep working and doing what they are supposed to do all the time,” Bolen said. “It has been a roller coaster.”

For the Mountaineers, the final three games of the season will determine whether or not they claim one of the four playoff spots from the region for the Class 3A state playoffs. Adairsville played Wednesday night, but the results of that game were not available at The Daily Citizen’s deadline.

North Murray plays Gordon Central today and will face Cartersville and Sonoraville — both teams are ahead of North Murray in the standings — next week.

“We have three games left, and I am still confident,” Redmond said. “What I told them was that it is over and we have to let it go. All we can do is try to control the next three games. We can’t sit there and second guess and play ‘shoulda-coulda-woulda.’ It happens. We just should have taken better care of a five-run lead.”

Dalton 6, Heritage-Catoosa 3: Needing to forget about last week’s disappointment, the Catamounts (14-8, 9-4 Sub-region 7B-4A) earned a big win in the first contest of a three-game series against the Generals (12-9, 8-5) in Ringgold.

With the series winner finishing second in the sub-region and hosting in next week’s region playoffs, Grant Sane went 3-for-3 with an RBI and Cole Shelton had a 3-for-4 day with two RBIs. Jase Chastain was 2-for-4 with two RBIs, while Maddux Houghton was 2-for-4.

Jackson Bell earned the win, pitching 6 1/3 innings and allowing three earned runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out two. Cole Shelton earned a save by pitching the final 2/3 inning, walking one and striking out one. When he entered the game, Heritage had runners at second and third, but Shelton struck a batter out and got a groundout to end it.

Last week, Northwest Whitfield swept a three-game series with Dalton to clinch the sub-region title.

“Coming off last week, I wanted to start this series strong,” Dalton coach Shane Ramsey said. “We always talk about setting the tone early. Jackson came out and pounded the strike zone and we got hits when we needed to. ... We were determined to come out and get ahead in this series.”

Dalton hosts today and plays at Heritage on Friday. Both games are at 5:30 p.m.

Northwest 15, LaFayette 3: The Bruins (16-4) earned their 12th win in 13 Sub-region 7B-4A games with a road victory in the first contest of the regular season’s final three-game series.

Andy Whisenant finished 3-for-5 and Seth Pierce went 2-for-4 with a home run, a double and four RBIs for the Bruins. Omar Hernandez added a two-run triple, while Diego Peralta had a two-RBI day.

Jack Creswell pitched five of the game’s six innings and allowed three hits and three runs (two earned). He walked six and struck out three. Walker Maret pitched the final inning, allowing one hit. The game was cut short by the GHSA’s mercy rule.

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