And suddenly, the Gordon Lee Trojans have become masters of the seven-run inning
For the third time in their last four state playoff games this season, Gordon Lee has blown a game open by scoring seven times in an inning - all three times in the sixth. It happened in both games of the previous series sweep against Seminole County and on Tuesday night, the Trojans did it to Bowdon.
The late-inning explosion was the final nail in a 13-4 Game 2 state semifinal victory over their Region 6-A rivals. That win, combined with a nifty 3-0 shutout in the opener sent Gordon Lee to the state championship series for the third year in a row in the fifth time in the last seven years.
"I'll take seven runs whenever it is," Gordon Lee head coach Mike Dunfee chuckled. "But like I've said before, our motto this year is 'no flinch', just keep playing the game and it's just fun to watch them play. I'm super proud of all of them."
Gordon Lee (30-4) got a sparkling one-hit shutout from junior righty Jake Wright in the opener. Wright gave up two walks and fanned 11 batters, while his clutch two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the second inning would stake his team to an early lead.
It was Wright's second big two-out, two-run hit in two weeks, coming the heels of another clutch hit in Game 1 against Seminole County that tied up the game in the fifth inning.
The only real scoring chance for Bowdon (19-21) came in the top of the second as Wyatt Karlovich ripped a one-out double and Carter Powell later walked and stole second with two outs, but Wright would leave the runners stranded with a strikeout.
The Red Devils' only other baserunner of the game came on a walk to lead off the fourth inning, but the runner never advanced past first base. Wright retired the last 12 batters he faced, seven on strikeouts.
"I just try to do whatever is best for my team," Wright said. "I just want to go out there and make them proud first of all. Throwing on the mound is easy when you've got the run support and the defense like we got. It just goes from there."
"Jake is a fierce competitor that believes in himself," Dunfee said. "He's got a lot of confidence and that's what you want in a player, but I think they all have confidence in each other. As I've said for years now, we're 20 deep and I'm super excited for them. We had a lot of guys had a great day today and everything worked out."
The Trojans would add their final run in the third as Justin Wooden led off with a single before later scoring on Chris Potter's RBI-single to left. Potter and Wright each had two hits for Gordon Lee. Trent Estes took the loss for the Red Devils, allowed three earned runs on eight hits and three walks in six innings of work. He finished with two strikeouts.
Potter opened the scoring in Game 2 with a three-run first-inning homerun, while Wooden added a two-run shot in the top of the second. Cade Peterson's seeing-eye RBI-single in the third staked the Trojans - playing as the visiting team in the nightcap - to a quick 6-0 lead.
Bowdon would get back into the game by scoring three runs off sophomore righty Jake Poindexter in the bottom of the third. Two came home on a single by Ben Fortson, who later scored on a double by Estes. They would threaten again in the fourth, putting two on with one out, but Gordon Lee shortstop J.D. Day would snag a liner off the bat of Kiler Cole before flipping the ball to second baseman Will Sizemore to double off the runner and end the inning.
The sixth-inning hit parade began with a double from Wooden, who scored on an RBI-double by Sizemore. The Trojans would bat around as Day, Peterson and Wooden would all add two-run hits later in the inning to help put it away.
Poindexter pitched 5.1 innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits and one walk with seven strikeouts. Logan Streetman put out a potential fire in the sixth, stranding runners at the corners, before turning things over to closer Hunter Hodson. Hodson gave up a leadoff single and walked a batter later in the seventh, but got all three outs on strikes, including the final one to win the game.
Day was 3-for-3 for Gordon Lee in Game 2. Wooden had four runs batted in, while Peterson matched Potter with three RBIs. Peterson and Potter now have 11 and 12 RBIs, respectively, in Gordon Lee's six playoff games.
Braden Bowen also pitched 5.1 innings for Bowdon. He was touched up for 11 earned runs on 11 hits and four walks with two strikeouts. Wesley Scales was the only Red Devil with multiple hits. It marked the second straight season that the two longtime region foes have faced off in the Class 1A Public School semifinals.
Now it's on to Savannah where defending state champion Gordon Lee will face either Schley County or Irwin County. Schley won Game 1 of their series, 6-3, but suffered a 6-0 loss in Game 2. That series will be decided on Wednesday, while the best-of-three state championship series will begin on Monday with a 5 p.m. doubleheader at Grayson Stadium. Game 3, if necessary, would be played on Wednesday.
Wright, for one, likes his team's chances, no matter who they face in the finals.
"I think we have the pitching staff to do it," he said. "Now we just have to go compete and, hopefully, come home with the trophy."