Some timely hitting, some timely defense and more solid pitching paved the way for the second-ranked Ringgold Tigers to advance to the Class AAA Elite Eight on Wednesday with a sweep of a very tough Sandy Creek club, the No. 3 seed from Region 5.
A wild finish in the opener gave way to more of a pitchers' duel in the nightcap. However, the Blue-and-White found a way to win both games and move on to the state quarterfinals.
Their third-round opponent was still unknown as of press time as No. 6-ranked Harlem, the Region 4 champion, had to battle back late Wednesday night to split their series with unranked Mary Persons, the Region 2 runner-up. Those two will complete their series on Thursday.
Ringgold 6, Sandy Creek 5
The Tigers led 2-0 after solo runs in each of the first two innings. Mason Parker scored on an error in the bottom of the first, while Austin McMahan reached on an error before later scoring on a wild pitch in the second.
The Patriots got a run back on a two-out, RBI-double by Kaden Brown in the top of the third, but Ringgold scored twice in the bottom of the fourth after only hitting one ball out of the infield. Kenyon Ransom blooped a single into rightfield, stole second, and was bunted to third by McMahan before scoring on a passed ball. McMahan later came home on a wild pitch to make it 4-1.
Sandy Creek answered with two more runs in the top of the fifth on a double by Daniel Belcher, but the Tigers responded with a run in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI-single by Sam Mills that brought in Eli Norris.
The Patriots scored their fourth run in the top of the seventh. Kaleb Cost led off the inning with a double as Robbie Bates came in to replace Ransom on the mound. However, an error allowed Cost to score and put the tying run on second.
Bates got a flyball and a strikeout, but Belcher came through with a two-out, RBI-double to deep left-center to tie it up, 5-5, before a final flyout sent the game to the bottom of the inning.
Ringgold wasted no time in loading the bases. Ransom was hit by a pitch to start the frame and McMahan got to first on an infield single before Ross Norman reached first on a passed ball on what should have been strike three.
The final run would score moments later in frantic fashion.
Ransom broke for home as Chase Ghormley squared around to deliver a sacrifice squeeze bunt. However, the bunt was popped up just into foul territory down the first-base line where it was caught. Ransom tried to quickly scamper back to third to avoid getting doubled off, but the throw to the bag sailed wide of its target. After re-tagging the bag, Ransom reversed direction and headed for home, sliding in safely ahead of the throw with the winning run.
McCain Mangum went 2 for 4, while McMahan scored twice. Ransom pitched the first six innings to get the victory. He gave up one walk and six hits and only two of the four runs he allowed were earned, while he finished with seven strikeouts. Bates gave up an unearned run on two hits with one strikeout to get the save.
Ringgold 3, Sandy Creek 0
The Tigers, playing as the visiting team in Game 2, finally broke the ice with a run in the top of the fifth inning.
Ransom drew a walk, swiped second and moved to third on an error before scoring on the Tigers' first hit of the game, an RBI-single by Norman.
The Patriots threatened in the bottom of the inning, putting two runners on base with two outs. However a deep drive to the right-centerfield gap was tracked down by Norris, who made an outstanding play to keep the shutout intact.
Ringgold got some breathing room an inning later. Mills led off the inning with a single and moved to second base as a late throw to first ended up in the dugout. Courtesy runner Dawsyn Ware took third on a passed ball before scoring on an RBI-single to left by Parker.
Parker later stole second before being replaced on the basepaths by courtesy runner Brady Hermann. Hermann tagged up to third on a flyball before racing home on a Colin Mountjoy sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.
Sandy Creek (19-13) got a leadoff single to begin the bottom of the seventh, but the runner was forced out at second moments later and two more outs put a lid on the series and punched the Tigers' ticket to the next round.
Ghormley scattered seven hits over seven innings, but did not issue any walks and finished with eight strikeouts. His counterpart, Sandy Creek's Glenn Green, fanned 15 batters in the loss.
Because of the GHSA's universal coin flip, Ringgold (27-6) would have to travel to Harlem for the quarterfinal round. However, as a higher seed, they would host Mary Persons in the next round.