TIFTON – The ABAC Baseball squad continued their long road trips to Florida this past weekend as they met the Manatees of State College of Florida for a three game set. ABAC looked to up their overall win total to four, and finally did so in game two, behind another great game on the mound for the pitchers and some timely base hits late in the game to secure a 5-4 win.
ABAC got to work early in the second game of the series as they put the first run on the board. With one out in the inning, Bryce Shupe and Justin Russell turned on the first pitch of their at bat to put them at first and second. Josh Jackson followed and took a quick 0-2 pitch count. On the third pitch he connected and on a ball hit to right field for the second out, however, Shupe tagged from third base on the play as the visitors took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the first.
Blake Howell made his third start for the Stallions, and in the bottom half of the inning ran into a little trouble allowing the hosts to match them with two runs on three hits. It was a strikeout to seventh batter after the run scored that settled him in, and the final out of the inning on a ground ball Jackson at first.
Colby Melton recorded the only base hit of the following inning for the Stallions, as they stalled with only one runner reaching base.
State College of Florida continued to add to their lead in the next two innings scoring one run in each to lead 4-1 entering the fourth.
Due up for the Stallions was the heart of the order, 4-5-6. Jackson looked for his second hit of the game as he stepped to the plate. The count, 1-1 to Jackson and he found the warning track in center field on a pitch that was roped over the head of the outfielder. Travis Ray also reached on a base on balls after a ground ball out. Jackson got around to third base, but the hit to score him to cut into a three run deficit came up empty.
The Manatees started to once again try to plate more runs in the bottom of the fifth on the triple on the first pitch of the frame. But Howell dug deep hit his spots and relied on his defense to make the plays behind him to get out of the inning untouched with one runner left at third base.
In the top of the fifth, ABAC sent its most batters to the plate with nine. Brett Usry and Isaiah Arnold started the attack with back-to-back singles. A one out walk by Russell a short time later loaded the bases for the Stallions. On the third pitch of Russell's plate appearance the second Stallion run was plated on a wild pitch, 4-2 now your score.
Jackson who had already collected one hit and made the most of his third trip to the plate. Jackson would score Arnold on the base hit past short.
Down by one run 4-3, ABAC took advantage of the opposing pitchers misses to the strike zone to allow Zane Folsom and Brandon Sewell both to reach on walks. That eventually led to the game-tying run being scored on the walk to Sewell, scoring Russell.
For the first time in the game, the swing in momentum went the opposite direction, and all cylinders started to fire and it started with Tristian Daugherty in relief of Howell. Daugherty has pitched just 9 1/3 innings for the Stallions out of the bullpen, but has been a vital part to the Stallions success in the games in which he has pitched. His longest appearance this season came against Tallahassee which was 3 1/3 innings, where he struck out five and just three hits. With the ball turned over to Daugherty in the fifth, he would again set the cruise control early, getting the pitches over the plate allowing his defense to make the plays and held the bats at bay for the hosts in the fifth.
With only ten pitches thrown in the sixth, Daugherty mixed in his first strikeout of the game on the final out.
Head Coach Brandon Reeder stated, "Tristain has been virtually unhittable the last two weeks, and really kept us in the game with another solid outing."
With one out in the seventh, It was Jackson yet again with another base hit to saddle up the offense in the inning. Folsom would follow Jackson on the bases with an error committed by the third baseman. ABAC would start timing the ball to put the ball on the ground, and Dakota Sloan reached on another ball hit to third base. Sloan reached first, Folsom was on second, and for the second time Jackson stood at third and represented the go-ahead run. Ray was the batter at the plate, 0-for-2 in the game, but his most important at bat came now. Coming off a strikeout Ray didn't let the pitcher get but one pitch across as he tattooed one in the right-center gap, scoring Jackson. ABAC led 5-4.
Daugherty would deliver in the final inning pitching yet another perfect three innings striking out the final two batters of the game to seal the deal and give ABAC their fourth win.
Making the most of the opportunities with runners in scoring position, and a couple clutch hits with two outs was the difference in game two.
Howell finished pitched four innings, and would take a no decision on the day.
Daugherty would collect his second win on the year improving to 2-1. In his last three games, just under eight innings, and hasn't allowed a run. Mix in twelve strikeouts and some scattered hits, which gives him a 1.93 ERA, which is right behind Rentz's 1.63.
ABAC would again be on the road today against Wallace Community College in Dothan, Alabama at 3:00 PM, and will be in Phenix City, Alabama Saturday against CVCC at 2:00 PM.
By: J. Roy Rowland IV, Sports Correspondent, Tifton Gazette