The Calhoun Yellow Jackets are on to the second round of the playoffs after a series sweep of Greater Atlanta Christian. Calhoun took game one by the score of 8-6, then followed it up with a 3-1 victory to close the first-round series.
“We knew going into it, they were going to be a quality ball club,” Calhoun head coach Chip Henderson said. “They don’t make a lot of mistakes (and) they’re well coached.”
The first game resulted in a back-and-forth slug fest, but the Yellow Jackets outlasted the Spartans 8-6. The biggest difference in the game was Bryse Ingle’s relief pitching and a four-run sixth inning.
Starting pitcher Ben King ran into trouble with one out in the top of the sixth inning. Henderson trotted out to the mound and made the change to Ingle. After giving up an RBI single, Ingle recorded back-to-back strikeouts, avoiding further damage.
“Ben was reaching his maximum pitch count,” Henderson said. “I felt as though it was time to make a move and give them a different look (and) give them a different arm.”
Entering the bottom of the sixth inning, Calhoun trailed 6-4 and GAC went to its bullpen. The Yellow Jacket offense proved to be too much for the Spartan bullpen, as the offense rattled off four runs.
After a Parker Lester double and a John Andrew Cash strikeout, pitcher Ben King singled home Lester to cut the Spartan lead to 6-5. Another base hit and a walk later, Andon Lewis would hit a sacrifice fly to right field, plating Kris Sutton, who was pinch running for King. Moments later, a wild pitch would bring home Bryson Trammell from third as the Yellow Jackets regained the lead, 7-6.
Ingle would close out the seventh, earning the save and the win. He pitched 1 2/3 of an inning, striking out three batters and allowing just one hit.
“Kudos to Bryse to come in in that situation,” Henderson said. “That’s a tough situation to be with (runners on) and then come in and deal like he did and fill the zone up with strikes.”
In the second game, the teams switched sides of the scoreboard. Calhoun would bat as the away team and GAC would appear as the home team.
In a closely-contested game two, Calhoun scored all three of its runs in the top of the fourth inning en route to a 3-1 series-clinching victory.
“The key is to advance and we were able to do that tonight,” Henderson said. “I’d rather play ugly and win than play pretty and lose. We’ve just got to learn from our mistakes tonight, … iron out a few wrinkles and just be ready to play next week.”
In the top of the fourth with a runner on third base, Julian Ipac hit into a fielder’s choice. The Spartans attempted the cutoff throw to home plate, but Joshua Tolson beat the throw for a 1-0 lead. A walk and a strikeout later, Parker Lester hit a ground ball to right field. However, GAC’s second baseman was not able to corral the ball, allowing Ipac and Ethan Crump to touch home plate.
The lead would hold through the remainder of the contest.
“After doing this for 25 years, I’m just a firm believer that the hardest game to win in a three-game series is game two,” Henderson said. “I think the weather (and) the heat had a lot to do with some tiredness and fatigue on both sides tonight.”
The Yellow Jackets are off until Thursday, when the team travels south to Atlanta to battle Region 5’s No. 1 seed Pace Academy in a doubleheader. If necessary, game three will be played on Friday, May 3. The start times for the three-game series have yet to be announced.