The ECI Bulldog baseball team will play in the state championship game for the second time in the last 8 years.
The Bulldogs played for the championship in 2015 losing to Schley Co. in two games. The Bulldogs returned the favor last Tuesday in the final four series, sweeping the Wildcats 6-2 in the first game and closed the series in the second game 5-3.
The Bulldogs have swept all four series in the state playoffs beginning with Hawkinsville in the first round, Lanier Co. in the second, Towns in the Elite 8 and Schley in the final four.
Both Class A divisions for the state championship will be played at J.I. Clements stadium at Georgia Southern University. Monday, Irwin County and Prince Avenue played a double header with their “if” game scheduled for Tuesday before the ECI-Charlton double header.
The Bulldogs played yesterday, May 23, against Charlton Co. in a best of 3 series for the state championship. The “if” need game will be played today, Wednesday, with first pitch scheduled for 7PM.
Charlton came into the series as the number 1 ranked team with a season record of 34-4. The Bulldogs are ranked number 2 with a season record of 30-8.
ECI and Charlton have 4 common opponents, with both winning all their games against Jenkins Co., McIntosh Co., Lanier Co. and Savannah Country Day.
In their first game of the final four against Schely Co., the Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead in the first inning and never trailed in the game. Gabe Lee moved to third on a wild pitch after a single and a Mercer walk. Hudson Henry plated the first run on a sac fly to put ECI up 1-0 in the top of the first.
The Bulldogs added to their lead in the second on singles by Charlie Rehberg, Aden McQuaig and Bryce Kearson to lead 2-0.
The Wilcats scored a couple runs in the bottom of the second to tie the game at 2-2.
The Bulldogs scored the last runs of the game in the top of the third inning on doubles by Mercer and Jacob Durden, a Boddiford single and a couple miscues by the Wildcats to lead 6-2.
Kearson and his defense shut down the Schley offense the rest of the way allowing just one hit in the last 3 innings.
Every Bulldog batter had a hit against the Wildcats. Boddiford was the multiple hitter with two for a total for 10 hits for ECI.
Kearson went the distance allowing 5 hits while striking out 5 with just 2 walks.
After a scoreless first inning in the second game, the Wildcats took a 3-0 lead in the second inning. It would be that last runs Schley Co. would score in the series.
With the momentum on the Schley side, mother nature intervened. The game was suspended after two innings with lightning in the area and a strong storm on the way.
The Bulldogs pecked away to score runs in the third and fourth innings when they game resumed on Wednesday afternoon.
Rehberg on after a single, scored on a Gabe Lee single for a 3-1 score. The Bulldogs got a run closer in the fourth inning. Henry, on second base after a double, scored on a PJ Farnum single to make the score 3-2.
The Bulldogs tied and went ahead for good in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Mercer led off the inning with a walk. James Parker, running for Mercer, advanced to second on a Boddiford sac bunt.
From there the Bulldogs pulled off some 2-out magic. With a 2-2 count, Farnum singles on a line drive to centerfield, scoring Parker to tie the game 3-3.
With Farnum on, Jacob Durden brought the fans to their feet when he lined 1-0 pitch for a homerun over the centerfield fence to put the Bulldogs up 5-3.
The Wildcats were unable to mount a threat in the top of the seventh as the Bulldogs battled back from 0-3 deficit and took the game and the series to advance to the championship series.
Durden pitched six innings for the Bulldogs, scattering 5 hits with 8 strikeouts and 3 free passes. Kearson relieved Jacob in the seventh inning giving up no hits to close out the game.
Farnum was the multiple hit Bulldog with two. Five other Bulldogs ended the game with a hit.
ECI and Charlton are no strangers to each other in the playoffs. The Bulldogs swept the Indians in Folkston in two games in 2015. The Indians did the same to the Bulldogs a year later at Joe Harvey Field.
The Bulldogs and Indians will come into the series with a lot of confidence with both sweeping their 4 series in the state playoffs.
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