Less than 24 hours later, Adairsville showed it still has plenty of life left this season as the Tigers opened up a four-run lead behind sophomore stalwart Cody Melton and then closed the doors on River Ridge as staff ace Cody Kremer pitched the last two innings to preserve a 4-2 home win Friday evening.
"Our kids, they were a little bit down on their [selves] about not continuing the playoff tradition that we've started here," Bishop revealed, "and last night after the Coosa loss, about 10 o'clock, I sent 'em a text message and said, 'Hey guys, we're still in it. Get ready to come back and go to work tomorrow.' And they did. They came with a great attitude today, and we just gotta take care of ourself right now. We can't be worrying about what Coosa and Rockmart and Pepperell and all of them are doing. We gotta worry about Adairsville right now. We do that we'll be alright."
Adairsville was more than alright against the Knights, who had beaten the Tigers 10-0 in the teams' first meeting. River Ridge witnessed the play of a much different team than the one that was shut out in that March 27 contest.
Adairsville watched its first base runner of the ball game picked off by River Ridge pitcher Ryan Worley in the first inning, but Bishop instructed his dugout to help out with the pickoff move from Worley after Trey Gulledge singled up the middle in bottom of the second. Gulledge got down to second base on a delayed passed ball and then scored on Ross Kennedy's screaming RBI hit to right field.
The Tigers added to their 1-0 lead in the third when Zach Sherwood's grounder to shortstop scored Hunter Smith, who was pinch running for Melton. Melton led the inning off by dropping in a hit to shallow right. Runs 2 and 3 came home in the form of Kyle Adams and Kremer on Gulledge's two-run single to right. Adams and Kremer reached base on a bunt hit and intentional walk, respectively.
Meanwhile, Melton, who surrendered a leadoff hit to Tyler Thigpen, sat down nine straight batters as he gave Adairsville an opportunity to eventually secure a lead.
The Knights actually had a little more success against Kremer -- at least initially. Kremer came in to pitch in the sixth. River Ridge produced four hits against the University of Georgia signee, including a run-scoring hit from Will Redding to cut the Knights' deficit to two. River Ridge's first run came after Ian Andrews' single -- which would have placed runners on the corners -- got past Adairsville's right fielder to plate the visitors' first run.
That performance from the Knights in the top of the sixth may have given them hopes of tying the ballgame, but Kremer extinguished those chances about as fast as it took his fastball to hit catcher Zach Sherwood's mitt. The Tiger senior had batters flailing as he registered four strikeouts in the seventh -- Zach Loveless reached base after a passed ball to extend the game.
Kremer gave up two runs (one earned) and wound up with seven strikeouts while Melton pitched five innings with six strikeouts, giving up just two hits and no runs.
Bishop noted that his team has been trying to deliver the same type of performance each night out, and Melton and Kremer helped toward that effort on Friday.
"It's been a constant battle all yearlong to be consistent. When I say consistent, I mean consistent for seven innings. We play real well -- play as good as anybody -- for six and have one bad inning," the Adairsville coach said. "We're working on that now, putting a complete game together, and anytime Cody Kremer goes to the mound that increases your chances. Cody Melton got the start tonight and he's really been the surprise out of the bullpen for us. Going into the season, we thought he was gonna be a long-relief closer, and he's proved to be one of our most productive pitchers, so we've been getting great innings out of that sophomore, Cody Melton."
As good as the Tigers' pitching and defense looked -- six hits, one error -- their offense proved just as worthy with some opportunistic play. Adairsville's offense managed two more runs than the Knights despite having one less hit -- six to five.
"It's just what we're all about -- get 'em on, get 'em over, get 'em in. We did a good job of it, didn't help their pitcher out and got some key hits when we needed 'em," Bishop said. "We had one base running blunder there early in the game, but other than that -- we run bases so much in practice every day that it just becomes second nature to 'em, and I think that pays off. A good pitcher early on, he may get you, simply because you haven't seen him, but we made adjustments on the bases."
Gulledge's two-hit, two-RBI day paced the Tigers, while Adams (1 for 3), Kennedy (1 for 3, RBI) and Melton (1 for 2) also came through at the plate for the hosts. Sherwood had the teams' other RBI.
Hitters for River Ridge were Thigpen, 2 for 4; Austin Garcia, 1 for 3; Andrews, 1 for 3; Redding, 1 for 3 (RBI); and Elijah Brague, 1 for 3.
The victory validated what Bishop had told his players the night before as Adairsville (8-11, 4-6 Region 7A-AA) moved a game closer to third spot in the sub-region, a place that would allow the Tigers to play for a chance to advance to the state playoffs.
"Coach [Chantry] Gulledge went home last night and played out all the scenarios, and mathematically we're still in the hunt," Bishop said. "It's not that we absolutely need somebody's help, but we just don't need anything crazy to happen at this point and we need to win the ones we're supposed to ... "
Adairsville, which is tied fourth in the sub-region with River Ridge and Rockmart, plays two of the teams ahead of it next week. On Tuesday, the Tigers visit Pepperell, which had five sub-region wins heading into Friday, and Adairsville returns home for senior night against Model three days later. The Blue Devils also had five sub-region wins going into Friday. The games against Pepperell and Model are scheduled for 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. starts, respectively.