Trailing perennial Class AA power Calhoun, Adairsville stormed back to score five unanswered runs and wrest control of Region 7-AA away from the Yellow Jackets with a 6-5, Game 3 victory in Tiger Valley.
"The never-quit mentality, I mean, people talk about it all the time, and this team exemplifies it. They don't ever think they're beat," Tigers coach Eric Bishop said. "We have to deal with some adversity at times, [but] I just can't say enough about this group of kids. It's all about them. I tell 'em all the time, 'I can't throw one pitch, I can't have one at-bat. Y'all gotta do that part.' We just try to get 'em as well-prepared as we can for it."
Adairsville players did their part in a tough spot of the must-win game.
Down 5-1, with nine outs to go, the Tigers had four straight batters reach base in the fifth, which began after Caleb McCreary was hit by a pitch. Trey Gulledge singled to right field, and Brandon Blome's subsequent run-scoring single to left cut the deficit to 5-2. A batter later, Michael Gwin knocked in an opposite-field, two-run single to clear the bases and trim Calhoun's lead to one.
A pitching change by the Yellow Jackets, who moved Corey Greeson to the mound for starter Austin Norrell, resulted in the first recorded out for Calhoun.
However, Cody Kremer followed that out with a double to left, which put runners in scoring position, and Jamey Barnes' RBI single squirted through to right to tie the game at 5-all.
Greeson managed to get the Yellow Jackets out of the inning without any further damage, but the pendulum had clearly swung to the Tigers' side.
With Barnes on the mound, Calhoun loaded the bases in the sixth on an intentional walk to Landon Curtis with two outs. The Adairsville senior fell behind in the count, 3-0, to pinch hitter Chase Rierson before roaring back for a strikeout.
In the seventh, the Tigers also loaded the bases as Cody Beemiller and Barnes drew walks, with Kremer's single in-between. Logan Tant drove in the game-winning run when his shot back to the mound ricocheted off of Greeson's glove. The Yellow Jackets' pitcher scrambled to retrieve the ball, but his throw to home came late as Beemiller crossed the plate and sprung into immediate celebration, mobbed by teammates.
Barnes pitched two innings for the win, giving up one hit and one walk while striking out two. Tant went 4 1/3 innings with five earned runs, eight hits, four walks and four strikeouts. Gwin induced a pop out from the only batter he faced.
Greeson threw three innings in the loss, surrendering one earned run on four hits and two walks; he added two strikeouts. Norrell went four innings before being yanked. He gave up four earned runs on six hits, one walk and one hit batter, and also had nine strikeouts.
Hitters for Adairsville were Blome, 3 for 4 (RBI); Gwin, 2 for 4 (two RBIs); Kremer, 2 for 4 (double); Barnes, 1 for 3 (RBI, walk); and Tant, 1 for 3 (RBI).
Helping Calhoun offensively were hitters Greeson, 1 for 5 (RBI); Trent Frix, 1 for 3 (RBI, walk); Josh Shubert, 2 for 3 (intentional walk); Norrell, 3 for 4 (two RBIs, double); Weston McArthur, 1 for 3; and Jeremy Wyatt, 1 for 4.
The Tigers' Blome scored a run in the first -- after Calhoun's catcher dropped the ball following a pickoff attempt at third -- but it was the Yellow Jackets who had things going from that point on. Norrell's RBI single in the third tied things up, and the visitors went ahead 5-1 in the fourth following Greeson's RBI single, Frix's run-scoring bloop hit and Norrell's two-run hit up the middle.
"I knew after that 13-1 [victory in] Game 1 this thing wasn't going to be that easy," said Bishop, whose team won the series opener Friday before dropping Game 2 by a score of 6-4, its first loss since March 4. "That bunch, they're defending region and defending state champs. They know how to play in these big ball games. We're still learning, but I really believe we gained a lot from this series and hopefully we can carry it over into the playoffs and just keep rolling."
The Adairsville coach said his team has continued to make strides.
"It's a little bit of a progression. This thing is not an overnight deal," Bishop added. "Three years ago we went 20-6, last year 21-5, now [we are 22-3]. You have to build up and make a conscious effort to get to this level. Nobody knows if you'll be able to stay, but this group of kids -- especially these seniors -- have been through that progression and I'm just thankful that they got to reap the rewards of it with a region championship."
The Tigers get to enjoy the region championship, if only for a little while. They start preparing for the first-round of the Georgia High School Association state tournament as Region 5-AA's No. 4 seed will travel to Adairsville Friday, and possibly Saturday, for a best-of-three series.
"Obviously I want 'em to enjoy this, and they'll have tomorrow off," Bishop said after Saturday's win. "I told 'em they're special until Monday. When they show up at school, all the special's over, it's time to go to work. Our coaching staff will start tomorrow preparing for our first-round matchup, and we'll hit the field Monday, put in our workdays prior to it, hope the weather cooperates, and we'll play the first round on Friday."
Tigers, Calhoun split series-opening doubleheader
The Adairsville Tigers had a nearly two-month mark of unblemished play halted Friday night as visiting Calhoun earned a 6-4 victory in Game 2 of their Region 7-AA championship series.
The Yellow Jackets rallied to tie the game after a one-run deficit and went ahead 5-2 on Shubert's second homer of the game, a three-run shot to right field in the fifth inning.
Not to be outdone, the Tigers turned to the long ball in the sixth, getting back-to-back solo home runs from their two Codys, Beemiller and Kremer, whose hits traveled over the center field and right field fences, respectively.
Adairsville was unable to add any more runs from that point on as Calhoun's Norrell, who came in for starting pitcher Curtis, struck out five of the six batters he faced.
The Yellow Jackets added their final run on a seventh-inning error.
Curtis, the Game 2 winner, pitched five innings with three earned runs, three hits, three walks and eight strikeouts.
Kremer, who was tagged with the loss, also struck out eight but gave up four earned runs on seven hits and a walk.
Calhoun went ahead in the top of the second on McArthur's RBI double.
In the Tigers' bottom half of the inning, Barnes drew a walk, stole second and reached third base when the final pitch to walk Tant got away from the Yellow Jackets' catcher.
Another stolen base, by Tant, put both runners in scoring position, and Barnes tied the game at 1-all on Gulledge's groundout.
Even without recording a hit -- which it did not do until the fourth -- Adairsville managed to take the lead in the third as Blome, who walked, came home on a wild pitch.
Calhoun immediately tied the game up on Shubert's home run to lead off the fourth inning.
Shubert led the Yellow Jackets with two hits and four RBIs, and Greeson, Norrell (two hits, double), Tyler King and McArthur (two hits, RBI) also had hits for Calhoun.
Beemiller, Kremer and Gulledge had Adairsville's lone hits on the night.
The nightcap was a far cry from Game 1 for the Tigers, who stretched their winning streak to 18 games with a 10-hit performance.
Blome (two doubles, RBI) and Gwin (three RBIs) finished with three hits in the 12-run win while Tant added three RBIs as well. Gulledge had an RBI and Kyle Adams came through with a double and RBI.
Barnes went six innings and earned the win for Adairsville, which scored five runs in the first, one in the third, two in the fifth and five in the sixth. He yielded the Yellow Jackets only run in the fourth on his way to a nine-strikeout, five-hit performance.