Josh Quinn struck out 15 in the loss. (Daily Home)
ALPINE — With their season on the line, the Wadley Bulldogs swept the Winterboro Bulldogs to earn a berth in the AHSAA Class 1A playoffs.
This is the second year in a row that the runner-up spot in Class 1A Region 7 was determined in the last area game, and Wadley won both times.
“It started when we had to beat TCC twice for us to get into this situation,” Wadley head coach Darrell Broach said. “We came over here and we knew that it was going to be tough. We came over here and we played our hearts out not only in the first game, but also in the second game. We knew we had to battle to the wire against this good team. We haven’t beat a lot of good teams, but coming down the stretch when we had to have it our guys worked their tails off and did what they had to do to win. We pulled it off today by beating a good real team.”
The visiting Bulldogs won the first game 3-1.
Wadley got a strong performance off of the mound from Ryan Siskey. The senior struck out 13 batters while only allowing five hits in a winning effort.
Siskey got all the run support he needed in the fifth inning when freshman Caleb Calhoun hit a towering two-run home run over the left field wall to make it 3-0.
“That was the difference in the ball game,” Broach said. “He has been a clutch hitter all year, but that was his first home run that he has hit.”
Josh Quinn earned the loss on the mound for Winterboro. The senior put forth a valiant effort as he struck out 15 batters in last start as a Winterboro Bulldog.
“I thought we had a team full of kids that were ready to battle," Winterboro head coach Brandon Brown said. “We were just outplayed by a better team. It is obvious that they are better than we are at a lot of the little things that you have to do to win. We are not quite at that level yet, that’s the bottom line.”
With the win Wadley forced a tiebreaker game with a playoff spot at stake.
The visiting teams scored four runs in the first inning. Ridge Dobson scored a ground out by Siskey to make it 1-0. An error by the shortstop on an Arin Howell hit allowed Calhoun to score to increase their lead to 2-0.
An error on the shortstop and the centerfielder allowed Kameron Staples and Howell to come home which made it 4-0.
Winterboro got on the board in the bottom half of the fourth inning. Taylor Garrett led the inning off with a walk. Jalen Whetstone’s fielder’s choice and an error on the throw to first base by the second baseman allowed Garrett to score to make it 4-1.
Wadley responded with a run in the top of the fifth inning to make it 5-1. Calhoun scored on an errant throw by the third baseman.
Winterboro rallied in the bottom half of the sixth inning. Whetstone hit a single to centerfield, which was mishandled and allowed Quinn to score to make it 5-2.
Jake McCoy’s sacrifice fly to deep right field allowed Josh Struzik to score from third base. Andrew Pitts cut the Wadley lead down to one run with a RBI single to left field to make it 5-4.
Wadley crushed any of Winterboro’s remaining postseason hopes in the seventh inning. The visitors from Randolph County scored four runs in the inning to go ahead 9-4. Winterboro pitcher Casey Goins allowed four hits and four runs in the seventh inning.
Calhoun capped off his great day swinging the bat with a two run double to make it 7-4. Bailey Watson hit a two run single to make it 9-4.
“Our Achilles’ heel all year has been pitching, Brown said. We have done a lot of it with smoke and mirrors. I thought Casey did a pretty good job for six innings and he had some bad luck that gave up a lot of those runs. It was an excellent experience for Casey being a freshman to pitch in a win or go home game like this.”
Calhoun finished Winterboro by striking out his 11th and 12th batters to end the game.
“I’ll take those pitchers any time against anybody,” Broach said. “They were real good. They played their hearts out and really the whole team did. We got guys that came up with key hits at key times. The key to the whole thing is you have to have good pitching and we got that in both games, you have to play solid defense and at the same time you have to be able to get hits in key situations with two outs with runners in scoring position. That is the difference in winning close games like that.”
Winterboro will have the tough task of replacing their four seniors: Quinn, Whetstone, Struzik and Johnnie Hughes. Brown said that his four seniors will be dearly missed next season.
“We are going to miss them,” Brown said. “We are losing Quinn. I will go ahead and say it — he is the best player that we ever had come through here as far as talent is concerned. We are losing an excellent catcher. We are losing a right fielder that has always gone about his business and had a pretty good career here. We are losing one on the bench that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I wish them the best in the future and I am happy they were a part of our program.”
Read more:The Daily Home - Wadley keeps Winterboro out of postseason again