The Gordon Lee Trojans haven't flinched all season long and they certainly weren't going to start on the final game of the season.
Gordon Lee absorbed an early body blow from Schley County before putting up nine straight runs to score a knockout in Wednesday's state championship game at historic Grayson Stadium in Savannah.
The Trojans' 9-3 victory in the decisive third game of the series gave Gordon Lee its second consecutive Class 1A Public School state baseball championship and its fourth state baseball title overall. Gordon Lee won Class 1A titles in 1979 and 1984.
The victory over Schley also helped erase some of the bad memories of the last series meeting between the two teams. That came in 2017 when the Wildcats swept the Trojans for the state title in Rome.
Gordon Lee head coach Mike Dunfee said the conclusion of Wednesday's game gave him the same bittersweet feelings he experienced when his team won the championship over Telfair County in Savannah a year ago.
"(Winning state) doesn't get old, I'll tell you that," he said. "I'm super excited for the guys, but I'm also sad that it's over. This is a really good group of kids and, like last year, I just don't want it to stop."
Schley (29-7) picked up a run in the top of the first inning on two singles, two walks and two fielder's choices. Dakota Albritton would score from third base on a wild pitch, but Gordon Lee starter Brody Cobb would escape the inning without further damage.
Wildcats' starter Trent Bivins would not be so lucky.
The Trojans scored four times in the bottom of the inning on three singles, two walks and one very costly error that allowed the first two runs to score. Mr. Clutch himself, Jake Wright, came through later in the inning with yet another two-out, two-run basehit.
Gordon Lee (32-5) would add to the lead with three runs in the second inning. Hunter Hodson plated the first run with a sacrifice fly before J.D. Day gave the Trojans more breathing room with a two-run double. Back-to-back RBI-singles by Will Sizemore and Hodson in the fourth would cap the scoring for the Navy-and-White.
The Trojans' defense would come up big in the middle innings. Centerfielder Justin Wooden tracked down a ball in the outfield to rob the Wildcats of a potential run and they would make another enormous play in the top of the fifth.
With Albritton on second base after a leadoff double against reliever Logan Streetman, Day showed off his hops by snaring a high line drive and flipping the ball to Sizemore at second base for a big and timely double play.
"That was a huge play J.D. made," Dunfee said. "If he had been holding a basketball in his hands, he could have dunked it. I don't know how in the world he jumped up that high to grab it. He had to have been at least 10 feet in the air."
The Wildcats would get a leadoff triple from Dylan Taylor in the top of the seventh and would score twice to briefly give their fans some life. However, Hodson would get one final strikeout to end the game and signal the long-awaited celebratory dogpile near the pitcher's mound.
"These kids just don't flinch," Dunfee added. "Schley got that run in the first inning and they were excited, but our kids knew there was still a lot of game to play. They just kept that stone cold look on their faces and kept playing."
Wooden, Sizemore and Wright all had two hits each for the Trojans, while Wooden scored a team-high three runs.
Cobb got the victory, allowing just one earned run on four hits and three walks in four innings of work. He finished with one strikeout. Streetman pitched two scoreless innings of relief, allowing two hits and one walk, while Hodson closed it out by giving up one earned run on one hit and two walks with two strikeouts in his final appearance for the Trojans.
Bivins suffered the loss for Schley. He was pulled after just 1.2 innings of work. He gave up seven runs - four earned - on six hits and three walks with three strikeouts.
Taylor and Lorne Barineau both had two hits for the Wildcats, who left 11 total runners on base in the game.
Wednesday also marked the final time in a Gordon Lee uniform for Wooden, Hodson, Streetman, Chris Potter and Braxton Ledford, who ended their Gordon Lee careers with 108 wins, three state finals appearances and two state championship rings.
"The seniors are a really great group of kids who really care about this program," Dunfee continued. "They bought into being unselfish and playing only for the team. I can't say enough about all five of them. They all played their roles and we will definitely miss them. All five will go on to do great things in life.
"But we also had some younger kids, some juniors and sophomores, who really stepped up and had phenomenal years as well. I'm very proud of them all. They deserve this and I'm glad they went out and got it."