Free Baseball: Tift wins in 9th

Bonaire – Kyle Kirk’s brand of baseball,#mojo, and late game heroics continued Wednesday night. Facing a reigning AAAAA champion in Houston County in the second contest between the two schools this season, fans got a rare treat, free baseball.  After falling to Valdosta at home last Friday night, the Devils have hit the ball hard, and gotten the outs when they had to have them. Entering at 7-3, Tift hoped for win #8 on the year. It took 9 frames, but they loaded the bus with another w.

Jonah Reyes, the Tift senior left fielder who has committed to Emanuel College this fall, drew a walk to start things for the Devils. After a strikeout sat second baseman Ryan Ross for the first out of the inning, the wheels on the Bear defense came flying off. Dayton Hall, a sophomore leftie, issued another walk to Briggs Benson. Zeke Dodson would reach on an error by the Houston County first baseman, advancing the runners to scoring position. Reyes would score, but Benson would be put out for the 2nd out on an apparent double steal.

Kirk sent Chase Cottle to the rubber for the Devils. After a rocky start saw HOCO plate a run to tie the contest, Cottle settled in. After both teams went quietly through the second frame,Tift rallied again in the 3rd. JP McGahee drew the third walk of the night from Hall. Reyes got a free pass, and the Devils were in business. McGahee and Reyes moved to scoring position after a double steal, and Ross plated McGahee with a RBI double. Reyes would score, and Ross advanced to third on a ground out by Benson to the second baseman. Dodson popped up to shallow right, and Kirk held his runner from the tag-up. With two gone in the frame, third baseman Le Bassett hit a RBI single to the gap in right -center. HOCO got out of the frame with a 4-1 deficit.

Houston County would find some offense in their half of the third. Dayton Hall would take things into his hands, singling to start the frame with a lick to right field. He would steal second base, and wait for his teammates to bring him home. Profit singled, moving Hall to 3rd. Andy Moore, the senior right fielder, reached on a fielding error. Hall scored, and shortstop Hunter Phillips would single home Profit before a double play ended their scoring efforts.

Connor Thomas pitches against Pike County earlier this season. Thomas picked up the win tonight, striking out 9 and allowing just one run in 5 innings of work. Photo: Shine Rankin Jr./SGSN

Connor Thomas pitches against Pike County earlier this season. Thomas picked up the win tonight, striking out 9 and allowing just one run in 5 innings of work. Photo: Shine Rankin Jr./SGSN

Up 4-3, Tift County began anew. Cottle would walk to start the frame. Center fielder Connor Thomas would be hit by a pitch for another base runner. McGahee would single to load the bases for Reyes with no one out. Reyes would hit it hard and deep to center field, but not clear the yard. His sacrifice fly would score Cottle. Ross singled in Thomas for another RBI but Houston got out without more bleeding.

Cottle’s  night on the mound would end in the home half of the 4th. Issuing a lead-off walk to designated hitter Jake Fromm, Cottle gave up a double to right center that scored Fromm and left Tanner Hall waiting for a chance to score. Dayton Hall singled him home. Kirk decided to change things up, bringing in Blake Becton to relieve Cottle. Becton got out of the inning, getting a double play to end the frame. Connor Thomas would get the nod from Kirk to finish the contest. In the bottom of the 5th, Thomas gave up his only run. With one down, Stephens doubled to left center. After a strikeout, Fromm got a single, advancing the courtesy runner for the catcher to third. HOCO would score on a error to tie the contest, and force extra innings 6-6.

Ross would find a way to get his third hit of the night, a big double with two gone in the top of the 9th inning. His double to left field put him in scoring position, and managed to score the winning run. He finished the night 3 for 5 with 2 RBIS. Reyes, Benson and Bassett each grabbed an RBI as the Devils combined for 7 runs on 6 hits. Thomas got the win, and Tift County improves to 8-3.  The Devils continue their season Friday night with another non-region contest; this one with the Veterans Warhawks. Game time is 5:55 at the Devil Diamond.

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