After a 19-win season and their first Class AAA state playoff appearance in five years, the Dawson County baseball team ended their season with a first-round playoff loss to Redan on Friday, April 29.
The Tigers traveled down to play the Raiders in a doubleheader that showcased the resolve of the visitors to hang in against a hot-hitting opponent.
Redan got out to an early lead in the first game, leading by as much as 13-1 before the Tigers showed their offensive prowess.
In the top of the fifth inning, the bats caught fire and DCHS would score six runs. Leading the charge was Luke Mulberry, who would lead his team with three hits in the game.
Four other players would have a pair of hits while Julian Horner led the team with three runs batted in.
Another couple of runs in the seventh inning would reduce the Tigers’ deficit to 13-9, which would remain as the final score. After a slow start, the visitors showed they could compete offensively with a Redan side that relied on their power hitting.
For head coach Dwayne Sapp, the team’s resolve and effort to get to the playoffs proved that they had earned their place, regardless of how they matched up against Redan.
“The senior leadership was critical during the season to weather the highs and lows of a three-month season. They did a terrific job handling this,” Sapp said. “I think the only thing that worried the coaches [about Redan] was the experience of the team. They had a lot of veteran players that have been in these situations and they were at home.”
The second game would prove to be much closer and would once again display the resiliency of the DCHS roster.
While a couple of early home runs by Redan could have demoralized the Tigers, the patience of the team would pay off in the third inning.
Trailing 5-0, the Tigers showed discipline at the plate and scored four runs to launch themselves right back into the game.
Elijah Odom opened up the scoring with an RBI single to drive in Davis Glass. After a double by Sawyer Bearden and a Nick Mullinax walk, Mulberry took advantage of the loaded bases and hit a two-run single. A sacrifice fly by Brandon Cramer would bring in the fourth run of the inning.
The Raiders would extend their lead once more with a three-run fifth inning, but the Tigers would have one more chance to come back.
In the seventh inning, DCHS would load the bases again and score twice on consecutive hit-by-pitches. With the score at 8-6, the Tigers were unable to continue the rally and finished their season with a first-round playoff exit.
While the season ended with the two losses, Sapp was still pleased with the way the team finished the regular season to clinch the No. 3 seed in the playoffs. The Tigers swept Lumpkin County to secure that spot after having been swept by North Hall.
“We needed to finish off the season on a good note and we did that,” Sapp said. “We played very well against Lumpkin County in every facet of the game.”
Despite the exit of six seniors after this season, the team will have plenty to build on as they attempt to make a trip back to the playoffs next season.
On the mound, prospective starters Trey Harvey, Davis Glass and Joshua Priest will be crucial in helping them stay in games. Offensively, the contributions of Bearden, Horner and Rucker will continue to be important.
Harvey earned his spot in the rotation this past season and will be looking to continue his success heading into his junior season. Priest proved to be effective both in starting games and in relief, helping stabilize the team on several occasions.
For the team to make another playoff appearance next season, Sapp has outlined what the team will need to focus on.
“I believe that the core of the team next year will need to play at their best — and with a lot of experience on the mound — I believe this team will be in every game,” Sapp said. “Pitching will lead this team next year and hopefully the offense will step up and be on par with the pitching.”
Overall, the Tigers finished this season with a 19-13 record and a 14-7 record within Region 7-AAA.