Valdosta rallies past Newnan for 6-5 win
by Doug Gorman
For a time, it looked like the Newnan Cougars were headed to next week’s Class AAAAAA Sweet 16.
The image, however, never came into complete focus.
One strike away from advancing past Valdosta in the top of the seventh of the third and deciding game, the Cougars could almost taste victory in a one-run game.
Instead, they had their hearts ripped from their chest when Seth Shuman ripped a two-strike, two-run triple with two outs to put the Wildcats ahead by one heading into the bottom of the seventh.
Despite Newnan loading the bases in its final at-bats, the lead stood for a 6-5 Valdosta victory on Saturday at Joe Pope Field that ended the Cougars’ 2014 season earlier than hoped.
The two teams were forced into the deciding game after splitting a doubleheader to open the first round on Friday.
Newnan was on the brink of getting the win and advancing to the second round after pitcher Brady Barnes fooled Logan Stephens and senior Daniel Tefft on curves for back-to-back strikeouts to come within an out of closing the series..
After facing two strikes and the possible final out of the game, Brennan Goodson started the rally and saved his team from defeat with a hit and Craig Barry followed with a single to set up a clutch at bat by Shuman, the son of Valdosta’s longtime head coach.
Barnes again got ahead, with Shuman fouling a ball down the left field line for strike two. The following 1-2 pitch was sent deep to center and just out of the reach of a sprawling Satterwhite for a bases-clearing triple that scored both runners.
“I don’t have any problem with Brady. I wouldn’t change anything,” Gilmore said. “Credit has to be given to their seventh-hole hitter. He stepped up after we had got the heart of their order out. Nine times out of 10 that is not going to happen, but today it did.”
The Cougars didn’t go quietly in their final at bat after senior Connor Dunn legged out an infield base hit and fellow senior Jake Kneidel kept the inning alive when a relay from shortstop pulled Valdosta’s first baseman off the bag.
Newnan junior Caleb McElwaney was then able to draw a walk to load the bases for freshman center-fielder K.D. Satterwhite, whose hard grounder to short was flipped to second for a force that ended the series.
Throughout the series, the Cougars seemed one or two plays from achieving their goals. Despite two strong pitching outings, Newnan’s inability to convert with a tying run on third and one out during the ninth inning of Game One saw the team struggle to put down a squeeze bunt.
Newnan’s seventh inning rally on Saturday began with a walk to senior Drew Oldham, who had posted a team-high three hits and had been stellar defensively in the series. But he was caught dangling off first and erased in a rundown for the first out.
Barnes, who wound up taking the loss on the mound, had saved at least a run earlier in the game when the sophomore outfielder made an acrobatic catch in right.
Added up, it might not have been Newnan’s time.
“We are a couple of plays from getting the win and moving on to the second round,” Gilmore said. “ You have to tip your hat to Valdosta for having that fight, but I will go to battle any day of the week with these 25 guys. They are a great group of kids on an off the field. They do everything we ask, but we just came up on the short end of the stick today.”
With its victory, the Wildcats move on to play winner of the McEachern-Newton series. Those two teams also played a third-and-deciding game on Saturday.
Newnan ends its season with a 15-12 record, but thoughts already turned to next year.
“There is only going to be one team that is happy with the way the season game out and that is the team that won the state title,” Gilmore said. “The thing I am most proud of is we are not the same team were were when the season started. We struggled in the beginning and we worked through it. We came out here and got after it.”
Valdosta took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Goodson drove in Stephens with a sacrifice fly.
Newnan took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first when Dunn and Kniedel reached and scored.
McElwaney helped get Newnan’s offense started with an RBI to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead and the junior was arguably the team’s hottest hitter after posting a clutch two-run double in game two.
Anthony Marino, who along with Satterwhite earned playing time off the JV, also reached on an error allowing Kneidel to score the second run of the inning.
The lead changed hands three more times with Valdosta jumping out to a 4-1 lead in the top of the second. Tefft’s two-run homer was the Wildcats’ big blow in the inning.
Newnan cut the lead to 4-3 in the bottom of the second getting three hits, including an RBI single to score Oldham.
Valdosta then helped Newnan tie the game in the bottom of the third with two-out error when Tyler Davis hit the ball right at the third but reached on a throwing error to keep the inning alive.
After stealing second Davis came home on Oldham’s base hit to tie the game.
Newnan took the lead with its final run of the game in the bottom of the fifth when Davis reached on a double and went to second on a base hit by Oldham.
Oldham nearly was picked off for the first time in the game, but managed to stay in the run down long enough for Davis to coax a throw home that bounded away allowing him to score.
Oldham went to second, but was standing on second to kill the rally
Newnan made several defensive plays in the contest to keep runs off the Wildcats’ side of the scoreboard.
Barnes turned in the catch of the game out in right field in the top of the fourth when he ran toward the ball and caught it over his shoulder for the final out of the inning before falling down, possibly prevented David Posas from scoring from first.
Newnan used four pitchers, including starter Matt Thomley, who went four innings, but didn’t figure in the decision.
Sam Sowerbrower and Chris Turner — who pitched in Game One — also pitched in relief for the Cougars, keeping the Wildcats off the scoreboard.
Six seniors ended their high school baseball careers for the Cougars, but Gilmore said helped keep the program going in a positive direction.
“They helped lay the bricks for this team, and we want to continue to move in a positive direction,” Gilmore said.
WILDCATS 6, COUGARS 5
VALDOSTA 130 000 2 — 6 8 3
NEWNAN 211 010 0 — 5 10 3
WP — Luke Ard
LP — Brady Barnes