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After sweeping Athens Christian in the Final Four, SCPS is heading to the GHSA State Championship.
Read Dennis Knights’ article from the Savannah Morning News.
In his 29 years as the head baseball coach at Savannah Christian, Carl Carter has led the Raiders to the Final Four eight times, but had never reached the finals.
That changed Wednesday as the Raiders swept visiting Athens Christian — taking the first game in dramatic walk-off fashion, 2-1, and winning the second game 2-0 to advance to the Class A Private Finals. The Raiders (32-3) have won 16 straight and will face Tattnall Square next Wednesday or Thursday in a doubleheader at Grayson Stadium at a time to be announced. A third game would take place on May 27, if necessary.
“This means everything to us,” Savannah Christian senior Ben Jackson said. “We made history, and this is something we’ll remember for a lifetime. Coach Carter has never been to a final, so we’re trying to make his dream come true and leave a legacy at Savannah Christian. But we still have work to do.”
Senior Zack Brockman (12-1) pitched another gem in the first game, and the Raider bats finally came alive when they were needed most. Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh, Kyle Hilton got things going with a one-out single and stole second before James Portzer came in to run for him. Cam Crosby flew out to third for the second out, bringing Drew Malphrus to the plate. The junior delivered an RBI single to tie the game, advancing to second on the throw to the plate. Nick Arrowood was up next, and he smoked a liner to left center to end the game.
Brockman struck out eight and walked one, allowing just one hit. Athens Christian (25-8) scored in the top of the fifth when Austin Knowles led off with a walk, stole second, and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Ladd Fortson. Blayze Haddock brought him home with a groundout to third as the Eagles manufactured their only run of the day.
Junior Emory Vaughan pitched well for Athens, scattering seven hits as he went the distance in the first game.
In the second game, Savannah Christian freshman Kyle Hilton (11-0) threw a shutout, fanning seven without walking a batter on a three-hitter.
Athens Christian senior lefty Andrew Hayes (8-3) also pitched well — going the distance, and allowing two runs (one earned) on seven hits.
The Raiders went ahead in the top of the third. Justin Anderson led off the inning with a grounder to third, but Knowles, who was excellent in the field all day, threw high over the first baseman’s head for a two-base error. Hilton’s sacrifice bunt moved him to third, bringing up Jackson, who leads the Raiders with six home runs.
With Anderson charging down the line to home plate, Jackson laid down a perfect suicide squeeze to score the first run. In the top of the seventh, Jackson gave the Raiders some insurance, ripping a double down the left field line to score Anderson, who had started the rally with a two-out single and was 3 for 4 with a double in the second game.
“My job was to get that bunt down no matter what,” said Jackson, who will play at East Tennessee State. “Once we got the lead, I knew everything would take care of itself. “
SCPS shortstop Jarrett Brown showed off his slick fielding ways once again — making an amazing play in the hole behind second and spinning to rob Fortson of a single to end the second inning of the second game. He snagged a hot one-hopper off the bat of Hayes in the bottom of the seventh to start a 6-4-3 double play.
“I take pride in my defense and probably get more satisfaction out of taking a hit away from somebody than I do from getting a hit,” said Brown, a sophomore. “I think our pitching and our defense have been the keys for us this year — that’s what got us here.”
For Carter, 61, who was recently named the Savannah Morning News coach of the year, the series win was another milestone in a special season.
“We’ve been to the semifinals eight times, but it’s been tough to make it to the finals,” Carter said. “It’s the end of the school year and a lot of kids are thinking about graduation, exams and the end of the school year. But this team has maintained its focus. We’ve got guys like Brockman and Jackson, who have been leaders the last few years, doing a great job. Then Brown at shortstop is making those ESPN type highlight plays in each game, and we have a freshman in Hilton, who is pitching like a senior. I’m really proud of everything we have accomplished.”
Athens Christian coach Allen Osborne, in his fourth year leading the Eagles, showed a lot of class in defeat. He came over to congratulate Carter in the dugout after the excitement had died down for the Raiders.
“Congratulations to Savannah Christian, they are a good club and coach Carter does a good job with them,” Osborne said. “They pitch, play defense and hit when they need to. But my club had an unbelievable season. This was the first time we have won a region title, reached the Sweet 16, the Elite Eight and now the Final Four. We’re going to lose some great seniors with guys like Andrew Hayes, Terrell Mattox, Archie Killian and Chandler Pethel graduating. They have meant a lot to our program.”
Thank you Dennis Knight with the Savannah Morning News.