ROCKMART — Around eight hours after the first pitch of Rockmart and Harlem’s series finale, each team’s fate was finally decided. And for the homestanding Yellow Jackets, the season continues.
A two-run home run by Brayden Cole held up Thursday evening through a weather delay that lasted more than five hours and Rockmart defeated the Bulldogs 7-1 in Game 3 of the Class AA Elite Eight series, putting the Jackets in the Final Four and two wins away from playing for a state championship.
But after the final out was made in the earliest hours of Friday morning, Rockmart head coach Kenny Yanzetich’s thoughts turned to the people not in Jacket uniforms.
“I’m going to be real honest with you. These parents, people who don’t even have kids on our ball club, they came out, they worked, they got this field ready for us,” Yanzetich said. “The kids got to hang out in the locker room the board has provided for us. It was great. I can’t say enough about our community and what they did tonight to get us to where we’re at.”
Rockmart’s Griffin Pace got the win on the mound in a Game 3 for the second series in a row, going six innings and striking out five and allowing just four hits and one run.
“Griffin was just on tonight again. Game 3 is his element. He pitched a heck of a ballgame again,” Yanzetich said. “I can’t say enough about these guys. They’re resilient. I’m proud of them.”
Cole bookended the contest by coming on in the seventh with runners on and no outs and striking out two to close out the night.
Thursday’s game began at 4 p.m. before a line of heavy rain and wind swept across North Georgia, causing a delay in the top of the first inning just after Cole’s shot over the left field fence.
After waiting out the weather and getting the field back into playable condition, play resumed at 10 p.m., with the GHSA’s contest curfew waived in order to get the game in and keep both teams from having stretch the series out to a third day.
Rockmart (26-8) got back to work and held Harlem scoreless for the first six innings while gradually building its lead. Cooper Yanzetich had an RBI single in the second, while Sam Sanders scored on a sacrifice fly by Ty Floyd in the third to make it 4-0.
Rockmart’s Dylan Bailey then hit an RBI single in the top of the fifth and hit a grounder in the seventh that allowed Andrew Morris to come home. Bailey then found his way to third and reached home on a wild pitch.
The senior catcher, who signed a baseball scholarship with Jacksonville State on Friday, then capped off the game in the bottom of the inning as he rocketed a strike-three pitch from Cole to first baseman Evan Ratcliff to pick off the Harlem runner for the third and final out.
“I mean, he’s a Division I catcher. When I got here four years ago we were a little short behind the plate, and this little freshman came and he’s been our starter ever since,” Yanzetich said. “I can’t say enough about him. That’s one of the parts of this senior class that I’m going to miss.”
The Jackets will be back on their home field Tuesday when they welcome Callaway in the Class AA Final Four series. The doubleheader in the best-of-three series is slated to start at 4:30 p.m. Game 3, if needed, will be played Wednesday at 5 p.m.
The winner will face the winner of the Jeff Davis-Bleckley County series in the Class AA state championship series May 20-23 at one of four possible neutral sites around the state, including State Mutual Stadium. The GHSA has not yet decided which classifications will play at each stadium.