After enduring four days of rainy weather, the members of the Pepperell baseball team were high — and dry —on Wednesday afternoon in Lindale.
Using the stout pitching of Jesse Gregory and the clutch hitting of Bryce Adams and Caleb Jackson, the Dragons advanced to the Class AA Sweet 16 by downing Greater Atlanta Christian, 2-0, in Game 3 of the opening round best-of-three Class AA playoff series.
Gregory crafted a six-hit shutout, finishing with five strikeouts and two walks. He threw 62 of his 99 pitches for strikes while going the distance.
The win now sends the No. 1-seeded Dragons (25-3) into the second round — and they won’t have long to prepare for it.
They will host Union County today in a doubleheader to open a best-of-three series at 1 p.m.
"We’re really excited about being in the second round,” said Adams, who punctuated Wednesday’s victory with a solo homer in the fifth inning. “We’ve worked hard all season and we feel like we deserve it.”
Wednesday’s game had been on hold since Saturday due to the stubborn rain showers that lingered in the area for four days and saturated Pepperell’s home field, causing the contest to be postponed on Saturday, Mondayand Tuesday.
The Dragons made the most of the down time, though. They took batting practice in the Pepperell gym and kept waiting for the rain to move out.
“We knew we would play eventually,” said Adams.
And when the weather finally cooperated, the Dragons seized the opportunity.
They jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead on Jackson’s two-out RBI single in the bottom of the first and they maintained that edge until Adams provided a big insurance run with his solo homer in the fifth.
That proved to be plenty of support for Gregory, who made clutch pitches throughout the afternoon, forcing GAC to leave six runners stranded from the third inning through the sixth.
He then retired the side in order to finish off his gem.
“I thought Jesse was outstanding at times today,” said Pepperell coach Wright Edge.
Edge allowed his team to enjoy the moment after the victory but said he hopes the Dragons won’t be content with what they’ve accomplished.
“I don’t want us to be relaxed,” he said. “I want us to be happy, but not satisfied.”
The Dragons used a series of fine defensive plays to protect their 1-0 lead for much of the intense day.
Adams then helped the Pepperell fans breathe a little easier when he connected for his homer — which easily cleared the fence in right field — in the fifth inning.
Adams said he told his teammates before his at-bat that he was going to do something big.
“I (asked) the guys in the dugout ‘Y’all want another run’?” said Adams with a smile.
Adams said he thinks Pepperell has the right ingredients to capture a state championship.
“We have enough seniors (to make a run),” he said. “We’ve been playing together our whole lives.”
Pepperell lost the opening game of the series, 6-1, to No. 4-seeded GAC last Friday — a defeat that ended the Dragons’ 19-game winning streak and pushed them to the brink of elimination.
But they bounced back in the second game of Friday’s doubleheader to register a 4-3 victory and then finished the series with Wednesday’s dramatic win.
Now, Pepperell is set to face a Union County (17-6) team that advanced to the second round by beating Bowdon, 8-1, on Tuesday in the third game of their best-of-three series.
Edge said he planned to do his research on Union County when he got home on Wednesday night.
In the meantime, he’ll probably be checking the radar a few times, too.