CHICKAMAUGA - It's a formula that was tried and tested in the regular season, and the Gordon Lee Trojans see no reason to change things now.
After blasting 12-seeded Irwin County in last Friday's opening round of the Class A public school tournament by a combined score of 29-1, fifth-seeded Gordon Lee kept the momentum going on Wednesday, outscoring 13-seeded Turner County, 22-2, in another two-game sweep.
As usual, it was a combination of outstanding starting pitching, solid defense, and a patient approach at the plate that culminated in a couple of big innings.
The Trojans got five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning of Game 1 to polish off a 10-0 run-rule victory, and later picked up a seven-spot in the fifth inning of Game 2 before winning 12-2 in another five-inning tilt.
"They do a good job, pitch-by-pitch and at-bat by at-bat working toward that third at-bat," GL head coach Mike Dunfee said of his team's approach at the plate. "We've been preaching that all season long and they adjusted well today. We know that pitching and defense are going to keep us in games every series, but we also know we have to swing the bats to win."
With the series win, Gordon Lee (27-2) advances to the state semifinals for the first time since the 2007 season, and they will host a semifinal round for the first time since the 2006 campaign.
"It really means a lot to get back to the Final Four," said senior Landon O'Neal. "It's been a team effort and our goal the whole year. Getting to play again at home is just awesome, especially since we came into the playoffs not knowing how many times we'd get to play here. But knowing the opportunity to play at home one more time was there if we won today, we just jumped at the chance."
Gordon Lee tagged Turner County ace Grant Muse for three runs in the bottom of the first inning of Game 1 and picked up two more in the fourth to make it 5-0.
Then in the fifth, the Trojans closed things out. Bay Wright had a steal of home in the frame, and a walk-off, two-run single by Connor Coakley capped the shutout win
Wright, Jake Rogers, Adam Vandiver, Tanner Sexton, and Cody Wilson all had two hits in the Trojans' 11-hit attack to help Branton Phillips to the win on the hill. Phillips threw four innings, striking out four and allowing just one hit in the victory.
Bryce Bailey's two-out, two-RBI double in the top of the first inning got Gordon Lee rolling in Game 2, and the Trojans held a 5-2 lead entering the fifth inning when the dam finally broke on the Rebels.
Gordon Lee sent 10 batters to the plate in the inning, scoring seven times on five hits against three Turner County pitchers, who also walked a batter and hit another with the bases loaded.
Coakley and Sexton each collected an RBI in the inning, Wright knocked in two with a single up the middle, and Phillips's two-out, three-run double ended the scoring for the Navy-and-White.
Seven of Gordon Lee's 12 runs in the nightcap came with two outs.
"I was a little bit scared before that (Irwin County) series, coming off that (region championship game) beating we suffered against Mt. Paran," Dunfee added, "but they've come out and responded the right way. They've come out these first two series really swinging it."
Conard Broom stranded several Turner County runners during the game. He gave up three hits, a walk, and hit three batters, but struck out three and gave up just one earned run in four innings. O'Neal struck out two batters in the bottom of the fifth and stranded three more to end it.
Luke Soliday took the loss for Turner County, who ended their season with a 15-12 overall record.
Gordon Lee will now await the winner of the series between No. 9 Treutlen and No. 16 Lincoln County, which is scheduled to begin on Thursday. The state semifinals are slated to begin on Monday in the friendly confines of Claude Hendrix Field.
"That's just gravy," Dunfee added. "(Playing at home) gives people a chance to come out and watch, especially the ones that can't travel five and six hours. We have great community support, not just for our team, but for every team and every kid in our school, and it's just awesome to see."