Banks County is trying to position itself for a spot in the state playoffs and on Tuesday in Gainesville it got all the help it needed from subregion foe East Hall.
The Vikings committed eight errors to go with numerous other miscues, and the Leopards capitalized on the way to an 11-1, six-inning victory at East Hall Park.
The win keeps Banks County (6-6, 6-4 subregion 8A-AA) in position to play for a state playoff berth. The top four teams from each subregion of 8-AA play crossover games, with the winners advancing to the state playoffs.
Winners of the crossover games then play each other to determine seeding for the state playoffs. Currently, the Leopards are in third place in 8A-AA behind Union County and Fannin County.
The Vikings (0-16, 0-11) have already been eliminated from playoff contention.
“We can’t overlook games like this because we have to win them all,” said Leopards winning pitcher Seth McEntire, who tossed all six innings, striking out four and allowing a run on two hits, three walks and a hit batter. He also scored two runs.
The Leopards benefitted from a Vikings defense that featured just one senior, two freshmen and three sophomores. Three first-inning East Hall errors led to three Banks County runs. The Leopards scored three more times in the fourth, with an error leading to two runs.
The game got out of hand in the sixth inning when the Vikings, trailing 6-1, committed four more errors that led to five runs to bring the score to its final margin.
There were other East Hall mistakes that won’t show in the box score, like in the third inning when a high fly ball dropped in the infield for a fielder’s choice — there was a runner at first who was forced out at second. Also in the third inning, Vikings coach Wesley Crow sent a runner on third to home on a ground ball to the pitcher. The runner was easily thrown out and Crow immediately apologized to the bench for sending him.
Of the Leopards’ 11 runs, only two were earned. Vikings freshman starter Hunter Buffington took the loss, working five-plus innings and striking out two while allowing six runs (two earned) on seven hits and three walks.
He also picked off three base runners to help limit the damage created by errors and keep the game manageable through five innings.
“He competed the whole time and really did a good job,” Crow said of Buffington. “The defensive errors came back to haunt us. He’s only a freshman, so he’s got a real shot at being a dynamite pitcher. I’m really pleased with his progress this year on the mound.”
The Vikings’ lone run came in the fourth when Jonathan Woodring scored on C.J. White’s fielder’s choice.
The Leopards were led by Tyler Hellmeister (3-for-4, two runs, RBI) and Dean Ewing (2-for-3, two RBIs, run). Leadoff hitter Tanner Thompson scored two runs.
Though the Leopards won, they lost coach Dean Goodwin after he was ejected by home plate umpire Claudis Moses in the second inning.
After a close play at first base in which a Banks County runner appeared to be safe, Goodwin attempted to take to the field from the dugout to discuss the call with the field umpire. Moses ordered Goodwin to return to the dugout, and Goodwin argued he had the right to call timeout and approach the field. After a brief exchange, Moses tossed Goodwin.
Georgia High School Association rules mandate any coach ejected from a sporting event must serve a two-game suspension. Goodwin said he will appeal the suspension.
“Since I’m the head coach, I’m allowed to call timeout and go on the field and approach any umpire,” Goodwin said. “I didn’t even have the opportunity to call timeout before I was ejected, so I will be appealing.”
Moses said he couldn’t comment directly on the incident, but said, “a coach can be thrown out at any time for acting (unsportsmanlike).”