With a large lead quickly dwindling, Lumpkin County coach Dustin Allen went with his ace Cody Waters earlier than he had hoped Tuesday against East Hall. The right-handed senior responded with 5 2/3 innings of steady work in long-relief duty, allowed only one run and led the Indians (14-8, 11-5 Region 7-AAA) to an 11-6 win in Gainesville.
“There’s no one on the team I’m more confident in than Cody,” said Allen.
Despite leading 9-0 in the second, Waters was called on to put the clamps on an East Hall rally in the bottom of the second inning, after the Vikings put a five-spot on the board.
With the win, Lumpkin County needs to win one of its final two regular-season games this week to lock up a repeat No. 2 seed to the postseason.
The Indians visit West Hall today in Oakwood, then host Dawson County to wrap up regular season play Friday in Dahlonega. East Hall has already locked up its first postseason berth since 2003. The Vikings’ loss came on the heels of a 3-2 win against region champion Franklin County on Monday in Carnesville.
“It feels awesome to know we can open the playoffs at home again,” said Gunner Wood, who doubled twice for Lumpkin County. “We just need one more win.”
Allen kept usual starter Waters’ pitch count low in last Saturday’s win against Fannin County in Dahlonega, knowing that facing the matchup against East Hall would have major implications for the home-field spot to open the postseason.
Lumpkin County scored seven unearned runs, largely a result of five Vikings (13-11, 11-6) errors in the first two innings.
Derek DiSanto had a two-run double for the Indians in the first inning, then followed with an RBI single in the second to make it 8-0. Wood’s biggest hit was two-run double with runners in scoring position in the second inning.
In the first inning, Wood reached on a throwing error to first base, and moved to second on a passed ball. After getting caught in a rundown between third base and home on a ground ball, Wood managed to evade the tag for a run.
Lumpkin County also stole six bases — four in the first pair of innings — an aggressive base-running strategy used by Allen.
“With our speed on the bases, it puts more pressure on the defense,” said Allen.
Despite the nine-run lead, East Hall hammered out five runs in the second behind a two-run double from Jonah Crocker with two outs, and one-out, run-scoring hits by Ronnie Peebles and Jeremy Walls.
Waters entered with Lumpkin County ahead 9-5, and shut East Hall down after it crept back in the game. Waters got out of the sixth inning without allowing a run, despite a pair of runners in scoring position. In the seventh inning with the bases loaded, the Vikings tacked on one more run with Levi Crocker’s RBI hit.
In addition to his solid pitching, Waters made a pair of outstanding defensive plays. In the fifth inning, Waters nabbed a hard-hit line drive right back at the mound. Then in the seventh, Waters charged off the mound to catch a pop-up, then threw down to first base, just missing the pick-off.
Levi Crocker finished with three singles for the Vikings. Jonah Crocker and Eli Stuart added two hits each for East Hall.
East Hall wraps up the regular season against Banks County today in Gainesville.