The home run was Colquitt County’s best friend Friday night.
Two big home runs gave Colquitt five of its seven runs on Friday, and the Packers wrapped up the Region 1-AAAAA baseball title with a 7-5 win over Lowndes on Friday at a packed Noel George Field.
Blake Bennett’s three-run homer in the top of the fifth gave the Packers a 5-4 lead, and Austin Dykes’ two-run shot in the seventh gave Colquitt two big insurance runs.
“Tough ballgame,” Lowndes head coach Danny Redshaw said. “We played hard. I thought we played well. We had a couple of key walks and a hit batter that hurt us. ... We made a couple of mistakes on pitches, and they took advantage. The home runs didn’t kill us as much as the free passes before the home runs.”
Colquitt ended the region season with a 10-2 region record, and will be the top seed from Region 1 in next week’s playoffs. Lowndes finished second with an 8-4 record, and will play East Coweta, the third seed from Region 2-AAAAA, in the first round.
Colquitt trailed 2-0 and 3-2 early on. But the Packers took the lead in the top of the fifth. Relief pitcher Mason Brooks walked Mack Hathcock and Aubrey McCarty to start the inning. One out later, Bennett saw a pitch he liked, and crushed it. The ball sailed over the fence near the 360-foot marker in left center and into the trees for a three-run homer, giving the Packers a 5-4 lead.
The Packers built on that lead in the top of the seventh. McCarty was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Then Dykes connected with a pitch and hit a long fly ball over the right field fence for a two-run homer, extending the Packers’ lead to 7-4.
Lowndes tried to rally in the bottom of the seventh. Lance Jarriel led off with a double to deep right field, and one out later, Seth Evans drove him in with another double to right, making it 7-5. Luke Miller drew a walk, putting the tying run on base. But Dykes struck out the final two batters to close out the win for the Packers.
“We were down, but we didn’t quit at the end. We had a chance there at the end, with our sticks up. But things didn’t work out,” Redshaw said.
Lowndes grabbed the early lead with two runs in the bottom of the second. Leading off the inning, Ty Harwell hit the ball just over the shortstop’s head for a single. Brooks was hit with a pitch. Then Tyler Rehberg laid down a sacrifice bunt. Colquitt catcher Vann Pitts fielded the ball and threw to first, but the second baseman, who was covering the base, missed the ball, and the ball went into right field. Harwell scored, and Brooks went to third. Then David Wortham hit a sacrifice fly to center, and Brooks ran home to give the Vikings a 2-0 lead.
The Packers answered with two runs in the top of the third. Pitts led off with a single to center. Daren Kent doubled off of the fence in left center, putting runners on second and third. One out later, Matt Creech’s single to right scored courtesy runner Tony Simpson. Brooks made a diving stop on McCarty’s ground ball towards first and threw to second for a force out, but Kent scored to tie the game at 2-2.
Lowndes regained the lead with a run in the bottom of the third. Nick Higginbotham beat out an infield single to start the third inning, then stole second and went to third when Pitts’ throw went into center field. Miller singled to center, scoring Higginbotham and giving the Vikings a 3-2 lead.
Lowndes added to its lead in the fourth inning. Rehberg usually bats left-handed, but stepped into the box right-handed against the ambidextrous McCarty, who pitched left-handed against him and right-handed against the other Lowndes hitters, and lined a single to center. Wortham sacrificed courtesy runner Garrett Fuller to second. With two outs, Jarriel singled to right, and Fuller scored easily when the ball got by the right fielder, making it 4-2.
Then Bennett’s home run in the top of the fifth gave the Packers a lead they would not relinquish.
Jarriel was the only Viking with multiple hits, going 2 for 4.
The home run was Colquitt County’s best friend Friday night.
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