WARNER ROBINS -- GHSA Class AAAAA will crown a new baseball champion this season after defending title holder Houston County dropped a 4-1 decision to Lakeside-Evans on Saturday in the decisive third game of their Region 2-AAAAA playoffs series.
“I’m disappointed, frustrated, and I feel bad for the seniors,” Houston County head coach Jason Brett said. “I feel bad for all of these kids. They worked hard, they busted their tail, they gave me everything they had, and we came out on the short end of things. That’s the game of baseball.”
All of Lakeside’s runs came in the fourth inning.
With a runner at second, Houston County starter Kyle Parry coaxed Luke Wiles into a groundout to third for the first out. Another groundout to third gave Parry a second out, and it looked like he would be out of the inning on a double play after the runner broke late for third, but first baseman D.L. Hall’s return throw across the diamond sailed into the fence for the first run of the game.
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Lakeside (11-11) capitalized on the momentum by immediately drawing a walk and singling ahead of a bases-clearing triple into the right-field corner by first baseman Peyton Jones, who had three hits on the day. He cruised home for the fourth run one batter later after Houston County (13-10) couldn’t handle a routine ground ball to second.
The Bears’ cashed in an error by Lakeside in the bottom of the inning to score their only run of the game. Houston County finished with just three hits in the contest and scored just two runs in 21 innings against Panthers pitching in the series.
“You’ve got to do better at the plate and tip your cap to them; they pitched well,” Brett said. “We had opportunities, and I’ll be honest with you, there was a time I should have bunted there and didn’t. We didn’t swing the bat real well, and that’s what happens.”
Houston County had a chance to bring the tying run to the plate in the final inning, but Hall was caught rounding second too far for the final out after Jeremiah Stephens had reached on an error. Cleanup hitting Hunter Phillips was due to the plate.
“That’s a little frustrating, but one play doesn’t win or lose a ballgame,” Brett said. “We had opportunities, and we didn’t do anything with them a couple of times (Saturday).”
Houston County entered the year ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAA but stumbled out of the gate against a challenging non-region schedule, before finishing the regular season by winning nine of its final 11 games. The Bears must replace nine seniors in 2016, including six players who started Saturday.
“I hope in this program that what we’ve done has at least prepared them for life after baseball,” Brett said. “That doesn’t make anything easier right now, but I’m proud of these kids. I’m going to miss the seniors.”
Jones County is the only Middle Georgia team remaining after the first round of the region tournament. The Greyhounds swept two games from Grovetown to advance.