The Valdosta Daily Times
The Cook Hornets used a massive five-run sixth inning, utilizing five hits, three errors and balk, to earn a 6-4 season-opening victory over the Valdosta Wildcats on day one of the Wildcat Invitational at Valdosta High’s Bazemore Field.
Trailing 4-1 heading into the sixth inning, the Hornets were able to tee off on Valdosta relief pitcher David Posas, mixing in their timely hitting with painful Wildcat errors, which seemed to help the Hornets in the most keen of times, and one inning-changing balk call late in the frame.
“Valdosta played as solid as they could and then had a few miscues in that inning,” Cook head coach Cleve Edwards said. “That one inning really cost them the ball game. We were fortunate to have a few things go our way in that one inning.”
Ross Pickle and Blake Cowart started the inning with back-to-back singles for the Hornets before Zane Folsom connected on a single to right field that Pickle from second. The run was the Hornets’ only earned run of the inning.
Valdosta’s Craig Berry mishandled Folsom’s hit to right field, allowing Cowart to take third. The following at-bat, Stanton Moore, who started on the hill for the Hornets and was relieved in the fourth inning, drilled one back at Posas, who bobbled the ball and was unable to make the throw to first.
With runners on the corners and two outs, after a fly out by Blake Daughtrey, Brady McLaughlin drilled a double to left-center, scoring Cowart and moving Folsom to third.
Then, Posas induced a ground out to short by Parker Bennett, ending the inning. Or at least it seemed like it did.
Before the teams could clear the field, Posas was called for a balk by the infield umpire and Moore was able to walk home, making the score 5-4.
“Up until that inning, I thought we played really good,” Valdosta head coach Bart Shuman said. “We had good pitching and got some timely hitting and then we had that mysterious balk call and we came unraveled a little bit. We are young and we have to bounce back from stuff like that.”
Bennett made Posas pay for the balk call on the following pitch, drilling a liner past third base and into left field, scoring McLaughlin, who moved to third base on the balk.
“A lot of folks counted this group out,” Edwards said. “We lost seven starters off of our team last year and some guys have had to sit and wait in line for some guys to graduate. And I am seeing some good things out of them. They are very hard-working kids and it is nice to see hard-working kids do well.”
Valdosta made it interesting in the seventh inning, putting runners at second and third with two outs. Then, with Jacob Davis on the plate, Bennett, who earned the save after pitching in the sixth and seventh innings, threw a wild pitch, sending Valdosta’s Brennan Goodson to home in an attempt to score.
But, Pickle was quick behind the plate and flung the ball back to Bennett, who applied the tag to Goodson and recorded the final out of the game.
When asked about whether he sent Goodson to home plate on the final out of the game, or if Goodson went on instinct, Shuman left it as an “instinctive” play by his young catcher.
Posas was charged with the loss for the Wildcats, despite only allowing one earned run in the sixth inning. He finished the night with one strikeout. Cook’s Dalton Rentz was given the win on the hill, allowing no runs on three hits in 1.2 innings pitched.
Valdosta opened the scoring in the third inning with a Posas home run to left-center field and added to their lead in the fourth inning when Posas connected on a one-run double, scoring Corey Jaramillo from second.
Cook got a run back in the top of the fifth inning when Daughtrey was inserted into the Hornets’ lineup and led off the inning by reaching base on a Valdosta error at third base by Davis.
Daughtrey then stole second base, advanced to third on a ground out and then scored on a Bennett squeeze punt down the first base line.
Valdosta built its lead to 4-1 in the fifth inning. Daniel Tefft started the inning with a single, followed by a double by Goodson, who was given a courtesy ran for by Kaleb Whitfield. The following at-bat, Drew Morrison connected on a two-run single, scoring both Tefft and Whitfield.
The Wildcat Invitational continues tonight when Lowndes faces Berrien at Bazemore Field. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.