The Dawson County Tigers celebrated senior night the right way last Friday as they held off the Greater Atlanta Christian Spartans to win by a final score of 10-8 after opening a six-run lead in the early innings.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, the victory would be the last of the season as the team had lost the previous two games in the series and entered the contest on April 19 mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for the second year in a row.
In pre-game ceremonies, Head Coach Dwayne Sapp presented seniors Cameron Moore and Jackson Verhoven commemorative plaques as the stadium announcer recited the highlights and accomplishments of each players’ career with the Dawson County Tigers.
Moore took the mound for the start in his final appearance for Dawson County and, after giving up a run in the first inning, retired 10 batters in a row to allow the Tigers to take control of the game from the beginning.
With a double into deep center filed, junior Hudson Sapp set the tone in his first at-bat, and was quickly brought around to score on a Bo Lewis single later in the inning. Dawson County went on to take the lead on a bases-loaded walk, but the final out left them loaded and the Tigers settled for a 2-1 lead after one inning.
Behind Moore’s strong arm and a defense that turned two double-plays, the Tigers continued to build on their lead as they added two runs in the second inning and three more runs in the third to take a commanding 7-1 lead into the fifth inning.
The Spartans rallied back with three walks with a pair of doubles and a pair of singles to post a six-run burst that tied the game at seven.
With momentum clearly on their side, the Spartans went on to hold the Tigers scoreless through the bottom of the fifth and took the lead with a run in the top of the sixth inning.
Lewis led off Dawson County’s half of the inning with a line-drive single to center that was followed by a single from Mauricio Hernandez and an error by the Spartans to load the bases with nobody out.
From there, the Tigers played solid fundamental ball as Nick Mullinax tied the game with a sacrifice fly and Carter Turkett put the team in the lead with a solid ball down the third base line. Moore helped his own cause with a well hit ball that drove in a third run to give Dawson County the lead by a score of 10-8 into the final stanza.
Dawson County called on Gabe Gutierrez to close the game and, after the Spartans loaded the bases and threatened to score, he forced a simple grounder up the middle to grave the save and preserve the 10-8 win for the Tigers.
Lewis led the Tigers at the plate with a 3-for-3 appearance, 4 RBIs and a run scored. Sapp was close behind with a 2-for-3 performance including a double and three runs scored. Moore picked up the win, allowing eight runs on seven hits while recording six strike-outs and six walks.
The first game of the series took place on the campus of the University of North Georgia on April 15, and despite doubling up the Spartans in the hit column, the Tigers were on the wrong side of the scoreboard as GAC went on to win the game 5-4.
“It’s a game of inches,” Head Coach Dwayne Sapp said. “We have been so close to breaking through all season long, but we just haven’t been able to get over that last inch.”
The Tigers traveled to Norcross for game two of the series and fell victim to the Spartans ace pitcher, Bryceton Payne, who shut down the Tigers with a complete game no-hitter as GAC went on to beat the Tigers 9-0.
Dawson County finished the regular season with an overall record of 10-13 and a regional record of 8-10 to put the Tigers just outside of the bubble for the state tournament. It is the second year in a row the team has missed out on the post-season, but Coach Sapp was already looking ahead to next season.
“Baseball is a different game than most others. The coach can only do so much, the players have to figure it out and react to situations. We can rep them in practice, but game speed is different,” Sapp said. “The seasoning they got this year is still just the beginning of a learning curve. In reality, the experience they gained will be valuable in the future, but they will still be young. Hopefully, they will come back bigger and stronger for next year.”