Tift Broils Coffee 7-1

Tifton – On a day that seemed almost like summertime after the cold spell dominating early season baseball in south Georgia this month, Tift County played host to a double header. The early contest featured Pike County’s Pirates against the Coffee Trojans. The Blue Devils shutout the Pirates on Friday night, 8-0, behind strong pitching from Connor Thomas, and big bats.  Coffee and Pike would battle for 7 frames, with Pike edging the Trojans 11-10. In the second contest, Coffee would face their former region foe, Tift County.

Jonah Reyes opens the scoring in the bottom of the 1st inning on as called double steal. Photo: Shine Rankin Jr./SGSN

Jonah Reyes opens the scoring in the bottom of the 1st inning on as called double steal. Photo: Shine Rankin Jr./SGSN

Tift Head Coach Kyle Kirk sent sophomore Christian Avant to pitch the non-region game. Avant provides a strong backstop at catcher when he isn’t on the mound. Avant allowed a walk in the top of the first frame, but got a ground ball hit straight back to the pitching rubber, which setup a 1-4-3 double play to end the inning. Coffee threw Bud Stone, a senior right-hander. In the home half, Jonah Reyes used his lead-off  position to single, and started a Tift rally.  Reyes stole second, and Center Fielder Connor Thomas reached to move him to third. Kirk called a double steal. Coffee’s catcher bit, firing short to the shortstop. Thomas was safe, and Kirk sent Reyes from third as soon as the ball left the catcher. The lead-off would score ahead of the throw.

Tift wasn’t done. The 3-hole batter, Zeke Dodson struck out after a quality at-bat. Briggs Benson, who has been struggling with tendinitis in his elbow, started at first base today. Batting in the clean-up slot, Benson doubled, scoring Thomas from second.  Le Bassett would collect an RBI, scoring Benson on a fielder’s choice.

Jp McGahee slides into second base a little hot. Photo: Shine Rankin Jr./SGSN

JP McGahee slides into second base a little hot. Photo: Shine Rankin Jr./SGSN

Ahead 3-0, Avant settled in, retiring Coffee batters with good defense from his teammates and decent command of his pitches at the plate. The Blue Devils found another scoring opportunity in the third frame. Dodson singled to left-center. The Coffee outfielder missed the ball, and Dodson ended up on the 3 bag before the Trojans could regain control. Benson hit another double, plating Dodson.  Bassett swapped places with Benson, hitting a rope down the right field line and collecting his second RBI of the contest. Coffee brought in sophomore sidearm hurler Trent Phillips to relieve Bud Stone.

With a 5-0 lead, Avant allowed a run to score in the top of sixth. Two Coffee hits, paired with a wild throw from 2B Ryan Ross on an attempted double play, allowed Coffee’s sole score on the day. Kirk replaced Avant with Ben Weaver. Avant went to catch, and Reyes replaced Tanner Nimmo in left field. Weaver got out of the side without any further trouble. In the home half, a Ryan Ross grounder was overthrown to the 1st

Ben Weaver closed the door in relief of Christian Avant. Weaver allowed no runs in 12/3 innings of work, and striking out the final batter.

Ben Weaver closed the door in relief of Christian Avant. Weaver allowed no runs in 12/3 innings of work, and striking out the final batter. Photo: Shine Rankin Jr./SGSN

baseman, and Ross would land on second. Le Bassett would single, moving Ross to third. That would end Phillips’ stint on the mound. Coffee called on freshman Wade Sumner to finish the contest.  JP McGahee laid down a terrific suicide bunt down the 1st base line, scoring Ross. A Jonah Reyes single scored Bassett. Sumner got a ground ball from Zeke Dodson, hit right at the 3rd baseman. The inning would end with the 6-3 putout.

Weaver allowed a base runner to make 1st base, but retired the final batter with a full count strikeout for the Tift County victory.

Avant recorded the win, allowing the one run on four Trojan hits in 5 2/3 innings of work.  Bud Stone would get the loss, allowing 4 runs on  in 4 and 1/3 innings. Bassett, Benson and Reyes all had two hits apiece. Benson and Bassett both also had RBIs, with Reyes collecting one of his own.

Tift County improves to 3-0 on the early season. Coffee falls to 0-3. The Blue Devils are scheduled to host Crisp County on Tuesday, but coaches will be watching the weather as rain is in the forecast every day this week. We will let fans know of any cancellations.

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