The three-run win, which was delayed a couple of hours and moved to Armuchee High after early morning rain, kept Adairsville in the hunt for the final spot in its sub-region, 7A-AA.
"Obviously, this was a big win, and it shows the progress of this team," coach Eric Bishop said of the Tigers, who returned just two starters from last season's second-round state playoff team. "In the last couple of weeks, we've just been making strides and doing a lot of good things consistently. There for a while, we were looking for consistency. That was kind of our key word for a couple of weeks. We'd play five or six great innings and then one or two innings would sink us."
"They've put together two very complete games. We've had good pitching from everybody. We haven't exactly tore the cover off the baseball, but we've done what it takes to score runs, and that's what we're about, we always will be [about that] here," Bishop added.
Adairsville, which defeated Model 8-1 Friday, grabbed a 2-0 lead for the second straight day when the Tigers shook off two consecutive first-inning strikeouts by drawing back-to-back walks to Cody Kremer and Zach Sherwood.
Trey Gulledge's infield single forced an errant throw from Pepperell's third baseman, scoring Adairsville's first run. The Tigers scored again when Dragon pitcher Tyler Smith's pickoff throw sailed into the outfield, allowing pinch runner Andrew Ward to cross home plate.
Adairsville pushed a pair of runs through in the top of the second as well. After Tristin Smith's leadoff walk, Ross Kennedy also reached base when Pepperell's catcher failed to throw down to first base on a third strike in the dirt. The disputed call from the home plate umpire upset Pepperell coaches and fans and seemed to briefly rattle starter Tyler Smith, who threw two wild pitches, the latter scoring Tristin Smith on a suicide squeeze play and advancing Kennedy to third.
Kennedy scored on Dylan Cochran's fielder's choice, sliding in for a 4-0 lead without a tag attempt from the Dragons' catcher.
The Tigers continued to manufacture runs in the fourth and Pepperell kept melting down in the field. Cochran followed a Kennedy walk by getting on at first after the Dragons' Tyler Smith overran a grounder in the infield. Two pitches from Smith were off the target, scoring Kennedy, and Cody Melton drove Cochran home with a sacrifice fly to center.
Kremer, Adairsville's starter, carried that six-run lead into the fifth, but Pepperell finally scratched a run off the Georgia signee when Jack Harwell, who singled to lead off, scored after the pitch from Kremer caused a swing and a miss from Bryce Adams but bounced before it got to Sherwood, eventually hitting the backstop.
In the sixth, Kremer walked his first two batters before being replaced by Gulledge, and the Dragons added another run on a pitch that made its way to the backstop. Pepperell's Smith then hit a grounder to second to score Kyle Shiflett, trimming the Tigers' lead to three.
Another leadoff walk began the bottom of the seventh, but Gulledge induced a double-play ball to shortstop Tristin Smith. Following an infield single up the middle of the field, Gulledge got another groundout to end the game.
Gulledge pitched two innings for the save, giving up no runs, two hits and one walk while striking out one. Kremer, who went five innings, earned the win after his two-hit, nine-strikeout performance. Kremer also walked three and hit a batter.
Helping Adairsville's efforts on the mound were hitters Tyler Washington (2 for 4), Sherwood (1 for 3, walk) and Gulledge (1 for 4).
Zach O'Neal collected a hit in his only at-bat for the Dragons, and Nick Williams (1 for 3, walk), Harwell (1 for 2, hit by a pitch) and Bradley Adams (1 for 3) each collected a hit as well.
After holding off a late rally from Pepperell to complete the regular season, Adairsville (10-11, 6-6) must now await the Monday night meeting between River Ridge and Coosa. If River Ridge (8-13, 5-6) was to win, it would force a tiebreaker scenario with the Tigers.
A loss by the Knights, however, would give Adairsville the No. 3 seed outright.
Bishop marvels at the path his team has taken, but he never had a question in his mind that they could challenge for the playoffs.
"We sit at 6-6 in the sub-region, and looking back a week and a half or two weeks ago, you would've easily took this outcome. I fully expected that this team could get it done," he said. "These players are the ones that went out and did it. They started to believe in themselves and believe in what we were doing, and they're the ones that got it done.
"Hats off to them."
An April 12 loss to Coosa appeared to wobble the Tigers, but it wasn't the knockout blow players initially believed it to be.
"A lot of 'em took that loss hard because they thought ... that was the one that was gonna lock us out. And then, in fact, some games took place and we did our part again," Bishop said. "Hopefully, come Monday or Tuesday, when all the games are done, we'll be lining up, hopefully, against Coahulla Creek with a chance to keep our playoff run alive."