Indians baseball powers to series win over Dawson County
The newest installment of the long-standing rivalry between the Lumpkin County and Dawson County baseball teams delivered everything a classic baseball rivalry series could offer last week: dominant pitching, sensational defensive plays, clutch hitting and the type of emotional outbreaks that are only witnessed when two bitter rivals square off against each other.
It was a clash that the Indians walked away from triumphantly, as they took two-of-three games from the Tigers in a series that began with a complete game pitching performance from the Indians’ Matthew Grizzle in game one and concluded with a dramatic top-of-the-seventh, two-out, three-run bomb off the bat of Lumpkin’s Eli Wingo in game three.
It was also a huge series win for Lumpkin in terms of the Region 7-AAA standings. The series win put the Indians in fourth place in the region standings ahead of the Tigers.
Game one of the three-game series showcased the pinpoint control of Grizzle on the mound for the Indians, as he baffled Dawson’s lineup with masterful command of both his fastball and changeup, when the two teams took to the diamond at the LCHS baseball field on Wednesday, March 27.
The Tigers were only able to muster one unearned run against Grizzle through the seven-inning affair. Grizzle was able to throw off the rhythm of the Dawson batters throughout the game with his change of speed and deceptive delivery. The Lumpkin righty displayed Greg Maddux-like control and ruthlessly cut through the strongest hitters in the Tigers’ lineup without giving up an inch or an earned run.
The Indians’ offense built enough of a lead to allow Grizzle to remain comfortable throughout the contest, leading to a complete game victory for the Indians’ pitcher.
Lumpkin plated four runs against Dawson to defeat the Tigers by a final score of 4-1, giving the Indians a 1-0 series lead after the first game between the two rivals.
The two teams met backup for the conclusion of the region series when they squared off for a doubleheader at the Dawson County baseball field on Friday, March 29.
The Tigers took out their aggression for losing game one out on LCHS starting pitcher Tucker Kirk in game two of the series and the first game of the doubleheader. The lefty couldn’t find an answer against the Tigers’ lineup and allowed four runs in his four innings on the mound before being replaced by Dalton Caldwell in the fifth inning. Caldwell finished the game for the Indians, pitching the final two innings while allowing a run.
The Indians started slowly at the plate in the contest, but were able to make a late-inning rally. Lumpkin scored three runs in the late innings of the game and had the bases loaded in the final inning, but were unable to climb back from the early 4-0 deficit and fell to the Tigers by a final score of 5-3.
The loss evened the series between the Indians and the Tigers to a game apiece and set the stage for game two of the doubleheader to be the deciding game of the series.
Game two of the doubleheader and the final game of the series proved to be a slugfest that would end in dramatic fashion.
LCHS starting pitcher Dalton Stephens was given an early 1-0 lead by his offense in the top of the first inning. The Indians scored twice more in the top of the second to build a 3-0 advantage when catcher Logan Choflet delivered a two-run single to centerfield. Stephens kept the Indians ahead with two scoreless innings from the mound. However, the Tigers jumped ahead of Lumpkin 4-3 in the bottom of the third when Stephens let up a three-run home run two batters after Dawson got on the scoreboard off an error by Choflet. Stephens was able to get out of the jam without any further damage.
Stephens’ night on the mound ended the next inning after the Tigers were able to score two runs by stealing home and by taking advantage of a Lumpkin error. Stephens exited the game having allowed six runs, five of which were earned, off six hits while striking out three in his 3 2/3 innings of work.
Nic Turner relieved Stephens and got out of the inning without allowing another run, but the Tigers took a 6-3 lead with three innings left in the game.
After the Indians were set down in order in the top of the fifth, Turner allowed another Dawson run in the bottom of the fifth off a wild pitch to give the Tigers a 7-3 advantage.
Things looked grim for the Indians, as they were down to their final six outs headed into the top of the sixth, but Lumpkin’s lineup delivered a string of clutch hitting that allowed them to tie the score at 7-7 in the top of the sixth.
Jacob Martin got things started with a leadoff infield single to second base. The next batter, Caldwell, was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second for the Indians. Grizzle followed with a sacrifice fly to centerfield. Lumpkin was able to score a run off Grizzle’s sacrifice, as the Dawson centerfielder threw the ball into the Tigers’ dugout trying to get it back into the infield. The error cut the Dawson lead to 7-4. Conner Pierce stepped up to the plate and crushed a double to deep center that plated Caldwell and further cut the Dawson lead to 7-5. Pierce was moved to third when Wingo legged out an infield single to short, giving the Indians runner at the corners with one out with Turner coming up. Turner kept the rally alive by smashing a RBI single through the right side of the infield to score Pierce from third. Braylen Chastain, who has been a consistent clutch bat for Lumpkin this season, once again came up big for his team when he hit a hard ball to second for a RBI sacrifice. Chastain’s RBI evened the score at 7-7. The rally ended with Choflet popping out to second base, but the Indians had successfully gotten back into the game with the big inning.
The celebration of tying the game didn’t last long for Lumpkin, as the Tigers put two more runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth to retake the lead at 9-7.
Down to their final three outs, the Indians knew they needed to produce at the plate if they were going to pull off a comeback. A walk to Turner to lead off the top of the seventh helped the Indians’ cause. Martin followed with a single to center to give Lumpkin runners at first and second. Caldwell hit into a fielder’s choice to the pitcher, who spun and threw out Turner at third, for the first out of the inning. Grizzle followed with a strikeout for the second out of the inning. With runners at first and second and two outs, Pierce pushed the Dawson pitcher to his limits by continuing to stay alive in a marathon at-bat before using his speed to score Martin and earn himself a RBI infield single. The run cut the Tigers’ lead to 9-8.
Some fans began to pack up their belongings as Lumpkin’s Wingo stepped up to the plate with runners at first and second and two outs. Wingo fell behind early in the count, but continued to keep himself alive by fouling off a few pitches. It appeared that Wingo had smacked a two-run double down the third base line to give the Indians a 10-9 lead, but the umpire called the hit foul and Wingo had to step back into the batter’s box to give it another go. Two pitches later, Wingo blasted a bomb over the left field fence that had Lumpkin’s fans on their feet with jubilation. The three-run home run off Wingo’s bat gave the Indians an 11-9 advantage.
The two-run advantage proved enough for the Indians to earn the win, as Turner recorded three strikeouts in a scoreless final inning to seal the 11-9 victory.
The emotion of the moment was seen from Turner as he roared with excitement on the mound after striking out the final Dawson batter. Turner was joined in the infield by his teammates, who all high-fived each other and celebrated the region win.
By taking two-of-three to win the series against the Tigers, Lumpkin improved to 10-9 overall and 5-7 in region play this season. Dawson, also 5-7 in region action, dropped to fifth in the Region 7-AAA standings with the Indians moving into fourth place.
The Indians will look to build on all the things they did well in the Dawson series when they battle it out with the North Hall Trojans in a Region 7-AAA, three-game series this week.
At press time, the Indians were set to face off with the Trojans in game one of the series on Monday, April 1. No official results were available.
Game two of the series is scheduled for today, April 3, at North Hall. First pitch is slated for 5:55 p.m.
The series will conclude with game three at the LCHS baseball field on Friday, April 5. First pitch for that game is at 5:55 p.m.