The host Wildcats aced their coach's game plan Tuesday as they held cross-county rival Cass without a run in a 5-0 shutout win.
"Before the last four games, we'd been pretty inconsistent. We'd come out one day ... we looked good then we'd come out another day and it looked totally different -- which I understand you're gonna get that when you're dealing with high school kids," Gochee said. "Guys gotta find a way to step up and put everything outside the fence and get it done, and tonight we executed. We went in with a plan on the mound and it worked pristine. I mean, it worked perfect. That was our plan: Blake Hall for three [innings], Robert [Harris for] three or four -- and we had Dalton Martin ready to go the seventh, if needed. Offensively, we executed. We got a few two-out hits with runners on, and I honestly believe that's the difference."
The Colonels had runners in scoring position several times throughout the game -- they led off the first through fourth innings with hits -- but couldn't produce the clutch hit to get a run across the plate. Cass even had more hits than the Woodland, 8-7, but they failed to best the Wildcats where it mattered most.
"Bottom line, the only thing that matters on the scoreboard is the number of runs scored," Colonels coach Todd Eubanks said. "We had runners on third base in the first four innings and couldn't get a run across the plate. Their pitchers buckled down and stopped us from getting the runs in. The Hall kid and the Harris kid did a good job of shutting the door, and we had our opportunities and we didn't take advantage of it, so that's the score."
Hall earned the win following his three-inning performance (six hits, one walk, one hit batter, one strikeout), and Harris -- who pitched four innings with two hits and four strikeouts -- was a key figure in getting the junior pitcher the victory.
Harris faced a two-on, none-out situation after entering in the top of the fourth inning. The Colonels started the inning with three straight singles, including one from Cameron Ray off Harris, after he came on in relief of Hall after the starter gave up hits to Brandon Etheridge and Chaz Wilson. Harris struck out the next batter and induced two fly balls to strand three runners and keep Cass off the scoreboard.
Woodland led 2-0 at the time and pushed its lead to four in the bottom of the fourth as Brack Bagwell got on base on a one-out single, which saw the Colonels' shortstop Sam Ayers slip after ranging to his left on a ball hit up the middle. Bagwell went to second on Martin's sacrifice bunt and then to third on a wild pitch. Jordan Osteen drew a walk to give the Wildcats runners on the corners, and Camden McGill ripped a double to right-center field to bring home both Bagwell and pinch runner Justin Allen.
Osteen plated Woodland's fifth run with his run-scoring double to right in the sixth.
McGill led the Wildcats with a 2-for-3 night (double, walk, two RBIs) while Mason Robinson (1 for 3), Hunter Siniard (1 for 3), Bagwell (1 for 2, walk), Martin (1 for 3) and Osteen (1 for 2, walk, double, two RBIs) also had hits for Woodland.
Hitters for Cass were Ayers, 1 for 4; Connor Law, 1 for 4 (double); Tyler Gates, 1 for 3 (hit by a pitch); Etheridge, 2 for 3; Wilson, 1 for 3; Ray, 1 for 2 (walk); and Chris Morton, 1 for 3.
Woodland's first run of the game was primarily earned on the strength of McGill and his speed. The Wildcats' leadoff hitter fisted a Dylan Williams pitch to second base, and after Law, Cass' second baseman, had to double pump with the ball, McGill beat out the throw for a single.
McGill, who drew a number of throws back to first from Williams, appeared to steal second base, but batter Chris Cuzzort was called for interference after his momentum carried him in front of Ray, the Colonels' catcher, on the throw to second. McGill had to retreat back to first but got back on his horse and stole second when the next batter came up. That batter, the left-handed hitting Harris, then moved McGill over to third with a well-placed grounder to shortstop. Harris reached on a fielder's choice, and McGill was safe as well following his slide underneath a tag from Cass third baseman Dalton Parham.
With runners on the corners, McGill wheeled his way home and Harris took off for second as Woodland grabbed a 1-0 lead on a passed ball.
The Wildcats added another run in the bottom of the second as Hunter Siniard dropped in a single to shallow left field. After a strikeout, Siniard made his way to third on a single from Martin, which caused Williams to slip on the slick grass as he tried to field the bunt.
Osteen then hit a run-scoring grounder as the Colonels' second baseman stepped on the bag for one out but couldn't complete an inning-ending double play as his momentum caused his throw to first to fall shy of the target, pulling Wilson slightly off the bag.
That two-run lead stood for a couple of innings, and after surviving a scare from Cass, Woodland added to the lead on the way to its fourth win in five games.
"We executed great. I'm very proud of our guys. We played well," Gochee said. "We're facing Williams over there. He's pretty tough. He tends to struggle a little bit [with] location at times, but his stuff is very electric. He's got good movement on all his pitches. That's probably why they still outhit us, even though we scored five runs. We had a good game plan going in. We were gonna try to get guys on and run a little bit, and it worked out great."
Williams finished the night with three earned runs, five hits, three strikeouts and one hit batter in four innings. Wilson pitched the other two innings, giving up an earned run on two hits and two walks while striking out four.
The Colonels had won five of six games heading into their matchup with Woodland, but Eubanks noted that his team has had bouts with up-and-down play this year.
"It's high school baseball, you're dealing with high school kids and they're gonna be up and down, and that's kind of been our season -- when we're on, we play very well, and when we're not, [we struggle]," he added. "If we don't show up, we can't win. Not that we didn't show up tonight, we did. We competed.
"Their pitchers shut us down when they needed to."
With the defeat, Cass dropped to 12-9 overall, 7-8 in Region 7-AAAA. The Colonels have a handful of games left and can afford to falter again if they hope to make the state playoffs.
"We got five to go. If we can win all five, then good things will happen for us," said Eubanks, whose team hosts Johns Creek Friday at 5:55 p.m. and Forsyth Central Saturday at 2 p.m. "The playoffs have started for us, so we cannot afford another loss."
Neither can the Wildcats. Woodland is sitting at 12-10 overall and 9-8 in the region, but four other teams entered the night with nine region wins. On Saturday, Woodland plays one of those teams, Lambert, in a 1 p.m. game in Suwanee.
"They're a team that's above us, so we want to be ready to go," Gochee said.
The day before, the Wildcats take a break from region play with a 4 p.m. game against South Paulding at the Atlanta Braves' Turner Field.
"My plan is to get 19 kids in on Friday. Everybody that wears a varsity uniform, my goal is to get 'em in the game on Friday," Gochee said. "It'll be special for us. Not all these kids get to go in and walk through the locker room and get treated like a big league guy for a day. Not everybody is gonna get to go to college, and these guys are gonna get to experience something that guys like [Braves third baseman] Chipper [Jones] get to experience every day."