In the early goings of the 2015 season, the Chattahoochee Valley Pirates have been absolutely dominant and just good enough to lose, all at the same time. The inconsistency brought a very talented Pirate team to Tallahassee, Florida with an 8-5 record and a # 22 national ranking, hoping to find an edge as conference play begins this week.
Game one on Friday afternoon was another of those near misses, as the Pirates arguably outpitched and outhit the Eagles, however, failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities in a 4-1 loss. The difference – TCC had 3 separate two out run scoring base hits, compared to CVCC’s zero.
Landon Faulkner made his 5th start of the season, throwing 4 quality innings, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, while striking out three. Pitching out of trouble to keep the game scoreless in the second and third, the Eagles finally got the big hit in the fourth to go up 2-0.
With a pitch count way too high, Bryce Conley relieved Faulkner in the 5th and was simply dominant, striking out 7 Eagles over the next 4 innings, including 5 punch outs in a row. While Conley kept the game in reach at 2-0, the Pirate offense finally mounted a rally in the 6th.
Hunter Webb led off with a single, with Kenny Ford reaching on a hit with one out to set up Will Campbell’s RBI single. In what looked the inning for CVCC to tie the game, Ford was thrown out trying to go 1st to 3rd on Campbell’s base hit. Nonetheless, CVCC broke through and made it a one run ball game.
Conley continued to deal, but a pair of 2 out base hits, one in the 7th and one in the 8th stretched the lead to 4-1. Although, the Pirates had something cooking in the 8th, Will Campbell’s smashing line drive was snagged by the TCC third baseman, that had it gotten through, would have easily scored 2 runs.
Unfortunately, that was as close as CVCC would come, as they dropped another tough decision to a good club, 4-1.
With Saturday’s game 2 being rained out, CVCC had an opportunity to salvage the series split on Sunday. Although it wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty offensively, the Pirates played with passion and competed like mad men all day long. Their perseverance paid off, as the Pirates pulled out an emotional 4-3 win to build momentum heading into conference play.
With several pitchers losing valuable innings to the recent rainouts, the day’s pitching was semi-scripted with Chase Burks earning the start. The offense gave Burks a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, as Hunt Webb and Tyler Lynn led off the game with back to back singles. After Kenny Ford moved them up to second and third, the Pirates looked to have squandered another scoring opportunity, as Webb and Lynn were still sitting on base with 2 out. However, Brandon Whiteford came through with a huge 2 out hit to give Burks the early lead.
After 2 scoreless innings, TCC scratched for 3 runs to take the lead. After 2 great infield plays, one by Burks on a bunt, and another by Ryan Hagan at third, it appeared Burks was going to wiggle out with allowing just a single run. However, TCC had back to back 2 out hits to take the lead, 3-2.
After Jordan Lee came on in the fourth and loaded the bases with one out, Austin Thomas relieved him in a tight spot and induced a 1-2-3 double play to stymie the threat. From that point on, the Pirate bullpen didn’t budge an inch, tossing 6 shutout innings allowing only 4 hits, while striking out 7.
Thomas held the fort down through 7, as the Pirate offense battled their way back to tie the game in the 6th, when Campbell led off with a double, and Ryan Hagan singled to put runners at the corners. Whiteford delivered a sac fly for his 3rd RBI of the game to knot the game at 3 apiece.
With AT throwing zeroes up for 3+ innings, Drew Dunagan came on and continued his resurgence as a pitcher and collected the first 2 outs in the 8th, with Jacob Ozley coming on to face the Eagle left handed hitting lead off hitter, and forcing a ground out to shortstop for a 1-2-3 inning.
Riding the Mo’, Tyler Lynn led off with a hustle base hit to start the inning. After a Ford sac bunt, Hagan became the hero of the day, delivering a 2 out double to score Lynn and give the Pirates a 4-3 lead.
Hagan then toed the rubber in the 9th to close things out. After a ground out to start the inning, Hagan gave up a double with one out. However, the runner was quickly erased as he tried to advance on a slider in the dirt. JT Thomas made the play of the day, as he quickly pounced and threw him out at third base for the second out. Hagan then pumped 92 mph fastballs by the TCC cleanup hitter to punch him out and end the game, sending CVCC home with a quality 4-3 win.
The Pirates now sit at 9-6 on the year and enter conference play this week, as they travel to Enterprise State on Thursday.