The Gordon Lee Trojans began defense of their Class 1A Public School state championship on Thursday and if Thursday's doubleheader was any indication, the Navy-and-White appeared to have picked up right where they left off in the playoffs a year ago.
Dominant pitching, combined with a solid all-around evening at the plate, lifted the Trojans into the state quarterfinals with a 11-1, 5-1 sweep of visiting Jenkins County.
"We had that little lay off (before the playoffs started), so our offensive timing was off just a little bit to start with," head coach Mike Dunfee said. "But we did get some good at-bats tonight, especially in that second game, and we hope that will carry over."
The No. 18-seeded War Eagles, who outlasted No. 15-seeded GMC in the opening round, made the nearly 300-mile drive from Millen to Chickamauga and were greeted by Trojan starters Jake Wright and Jake Poindexter.
Wright pitched the first five innings of the opener, giving up just one earned run on four hits. He struck out six batters, walked just two, and helped himself with a two-run homer in the second inning.
Gordon Lee (26-4) put up four runs in the fourth inning, two coming on a two-run double by Hunter Hodson, who also led off the sixth inning with a solo homerun. Two more runs would cross the plate to end the game. Cody Thomas had an RBI-single, while Cade Peterson had a walk-off RBI-single to end it.
Justin Wooden and Chris Potter joined Peterson and Hodson with two hits each. Logan Streetman pitched a scoreless, hitless inning for the Trojans in the sixth.
A pitcher's duel would ensue in the nightcap as Poindexter battled Jenkins County's Hagan Jenkins all seven innings. Jenkins gave up just two earned runs on seven hits and two walks and finished with 10 strikeouts, but Poindexter was even better. The sophomore gave up just one earned run on four hits. He walked two batters and punched out a total of 15 War Eagles.
Gordon Lee took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning on RBI-singles by Peterson and Will Sizemore, but the War Eagles threatened in the bottom of the fourth as they put runners on second and third with nobody out. Justin Gray would bring in a run with a groundout, but it was sandwiched between two strikeouts by Poindexter as he escaped further damage.
The last real threat from Jenkins County came in the bottom of the sixth with Gordon Lee nursing a 2-1 lead. A two-out single by Jenkins got things going, while another single, this one off the bat of Colby Broxton, allowed Jenkins to motor all the way to third and beat the throw.
However, as Broxton attempted to take an extra base on the play, third baseman Cody Thomas, who had just taken over at the hot corner moments earlier in a multi-position move after shortstop J.D. Day was injured on the previous play, fired the ball to Sizemore covering at second to nip Braxton at the bag and end the inning.
Sizemore finished with two hits and two RBIs in the second game. Potter also knocked in a run, while Hodson added a double.
"We swung it pretty well in that first game, but you have to tip your hat to (Hagan) Jenkins in that second game," Dunfee said. "That kid threw a lot of pitches and he showed a lot of grit out there.
"But our guys really responded when J.D. went down and really picked him up. They also responded when the game got a little tight and a little chippy on both sides. It was a little intense, but they handled it well."
Dunfee said that Day would be evaluated further on Friday, but that he hopes to have his shortstop back for the next round.
The state quarterfinals will start on May 8 with a doubleheader, tentatively set for 5 p.m. Game 3, if needed, would be played on Wednesday.
Gordon Lee's opponent in the quarterfinals will not be known until Friday. No. 7-seeded Seminole County handled No. 23-seeded Wilcox County in their opening game on Thursday, 13-2. However, the Patriots responded with a 5-4 victory in the nightcap to send the series to a decisive third game.
"The further you go in the playoffs, the tougher it gets," Dunfee added. "But we're just worried about us. I try not to worry about what's in the other dugout and what they're bringing in here. If we just do our thing, compete and do what we can do, I feel pretty good about our guys."