LAFAYETTE - The Northwest Whitfield Bruins have already clinched the subregion title and have already clinched a berth in the Class AAAA state baseball playoffs.
But their hopes of completing an unbeaten run through Region 7-AAAA's "B" subregion were dashed on Thursday night by perhaps the most inspired performance of the season by the LaFayette Ramblers.
The Orange-and-Black took advantage of some Northwest mistakes, and got seven solid innings from pitcher Micah Wyatt, as they celebrated Senior Night with happy tears in the dugout and a memorable 5-4 win over the Bruins.
"This was a huge win for our seniors and I'm so proud for them," said LaFayette head coach Mike Shank, whose team snapped the Bruins' subregion unbeaten streak at 13 games. "(Northwest) is definitely the best team we've played, by far, this season, but we were able to put a little pressure on them tonight. They broke down a little and we were able to take advantage.
"It was a good win for our young kids too, and we had some middle school players here to watch the game, so a win like this one is something we can use to build on for the future."
LaFayette (9-12, 6-8), who lost to the Bruins, 11-1, in Tunnel Hill on Tuesday, jumped out to 4-0 lead after two innings against Northwest ace Seth Pierce.
McKenzie Kelehear greeted Pierce with a leadoff double and Andy Boss laced a single to open the bottom of the first inning. Both runs would later come home thanks to a passed ball and two Northwest errors.
Brice Cleverley singled and stole second before scoring on Kelehear's RBI-single an inning later, and Kelehear would eventually swipe home following a pickoff attempt at first base for the fourth run.
"We were both throwing our aces tonight, so we knew getting a run or two would be important," Shank said. "That steal of home was huge for us."
Edwin Hernandez launched a solo shot for the Bruins (18-4, 13-1) in the top of the fourth, but the Ramblers would manufacture another run in the home half of the inning. Cleverley singled, took second on a Brandon Buck sacrifice bunt, moved to third on a ground out, and scored on Northwest's third passed ball of the game.
The Bruins picked up two more runs in the fifth and made things very interesting in their final at-bat.
They put runners at first and second before an RBI-double by Hernandez pulled the Bruins to within a run. However, with runners and second and third and two outs, Wyatt got A.J. Orozco swinging for the final out of the night as the Rowdy Ramblers cheering section vaulted the outfield fence to celebrate with the team.
"This win means so much," Wyatt said. "I told the guys before the game that we needed to jump on them early, and getting a four-run lead was big. I was just trying to hit my spot on the outside corner on that last pitch. I did it and I got the strikeout. It's just an awesome feeling."
Kelehear and Cleverley each had two hits in the win, while Wyatt allowed just five hits and three earned runs in the complete-game victory. He struck out eight and walked four.
LaFayette will travel to Northwest on Friday in the third and final game of the series. The Ramblers will take on the No. 4 seed from the "A" subregion in a three-game series to close out the season next week.