OAKWOOD — Cameron Johnson said he was so happy he could do a backflip.
When the West Hall sophomore sprinted home on a wild pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning to beat Lumpkin County 3-2 on Friday night, the Spartans not only won their first region game, but snapped a six-game losing streak and an 0-3 record in one-run games.
“I knew if I could get across the plate, the game’s over,” said Johnson, whose one-out double to the fence accounted for his lone hit on a 1 for 4 night.
West Hall loaded the bases on an intentional walk and an error, putting Johnson just 90 feet from home plate with one out. When a Lumpkin County pitch flew over the head of the batter, the sophomore flew down the line to put a great finish on an inning that couldn’t have started much worse for the home team.
“I’m proud of this team,” said West Hall coach Pete Allen, who was ejected along with one of his starters after the first out of the frame. “They had every reason to say ‘Oh, no; here we go again,’ and they said, ‘No more.’”
The ejections will keep Allen and second baseman Zach English out of the next two games per GHSA rules, but the coach thinks that the Spartans (3-6, 1-3 8-AAA) still might be turning around their early-season slump.
“Maybe we can use this as a spark,” said Allen, whose team plays eight of its next 11 at home after starting the year with seven of eight on the road. “It’s good to be home.”
Lumpkin County (3-6, 0-3), which has now lost six of its last seven, lost its fourth one-run game of the year in a season in which both coaches have seen something of a power outage.
Indians coach Dustin Allen, whose Friday starter, Mitchell Stephens, allowed just one earned run in 6 2/3 innings of a no-decision, said to look for more low scoring, close games in Region 8-AAA.
“You’re not seeing a lot of blowouts,” added West Hall coach Pete Allen. “This could be the year of the pitcher.”
Spartans starter Turk Taylor, who lost a 2-1 game to Johnson earlier this season, allowed one earned run over seven innings to earn a no-decision. Reliever Chase Jarrard worked around a bases-loaded jam in the eighth to earn the win, and Freddie Beaman, who got out of a jam in the seventh and started the eighth with a strikeout before a hit, an error and a wild pitch turned the tide, was saddled with the loss for Lumpkin County.
“All of the pitchers did well,” the Lumpkin County coach said. “There are a lot of good pitchers in this region.”
Each team scored in the first inning — West Hall on an RBI single by Cody Simpson and Lumpkin County on an RBI groundout by Calvin Medlin — and then both pitchers settled down.
Lumpkin County went ahead 2-1 in the third on an RBI groundout by Mitchell to score Will Anderson, who first got into scoring position on a fielding error.
Lincoln Stubbs evened the game at 2-2 when Lumpkin County allowed him to score from third on a throwing error.
Both pitchers also escaped jams along the way. Stephens made a diving grab of a high bunt for an out in the third to prevent a runner advancing to third base with one out, and Taylor got help from English in the sixth with a diving grab of a line drive.
Taylor finished with three hits allowed and six strikeouts, and Stephens struck out one and allowed five hits.
Lumpkin County hosts North Hall at 5:55 p.m. Monday, and West Hall hosts Gainesville on Monday.