Big DH sweep gets Woodland back in contention

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The two games looked very different, but the result was the same—a doubleheader sweep by Woodland over Paulding County Thursday at LakePoint that got the Wildcats clawing back to .500 in Region 7-AAAAA.

The ’Cats won a thriller and then a blowout, finishing a climb back to playoff contention that started when they started 0-4 in region.

Woodland has gone 5-1 since then, a stretch that includes sweeps of Villa Rica and, now, Paulding County.

“It was two very big region wins,” Woodland coach Colby Coursey said.

The first game of Thursday’s doubleheader was a nailbiting pitcher’s duel, as the Patriots came back to tie it in the top of the sixth before Woodland scored one in the bottom of the inning for a 3-2 win.

Paulding scored once off Woodland starter Kenny Jinks in the top of the first, but the sophomore threw up zeroes from that point forward, eventually going five innings and giving up just five hits and the one run while striking out four.

The Wildcats broke through in the fourth with two runs, but could have had more.

Jacob Frye tripled to lead off and scored on Hunter Reaid’s single. Cauy Williams followed with another base hit and Noah Ludy was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs, but Koby Stansel popped up for the first out.

A run scored on an error and a walk loaded the bases again, but Paulding pitcher Alex Gilstrap induced a double play to end the inning.

“They started a really good pitcher,” Coursey said. “We hit it well and put runners in scoring position and kind of had to manufacture runs.”

The Patriots then tied it in the sixth, after Garrett Pope relieved Jinks to start the inning.

He was rudely greeted with a leadoff double, and after two quick outs, Collin Bodnar singled to tie the game for Paulding.

Pope stopped the scoring there, though, and Woodland made him the winner in the bottom half of the inning.

Reaid and Williams singled to start it, and Ludy’s bunt was mishandled by Gilstrap, still in the game, loading the bases with no outs.

Stansel brought the run home this time, grounding out to short to score Reaid’s courtesy runner Brycen Kellett.

The Wildcats couldn’t do anything else from there, even with two runners in scoring position, but the one run was enough for closer Tommy Peed, who worked around two walks in the ninth and picked a runner off first for the third out with the tying run on third base.

Frye, Reaid and Williams each had two hits in the opener to account for all of Woodland’s six in the game.

The second game didn’t have quite the same suspense, as the hitting bug spread to the rest of the lineup, with the Wildcats rapping out 18 in total on their way to an easy 12-1 win.

Williams started on the mound for Woodland and was just as impressive as the offense, striking out eight, walking two and giving up just one hit in six innings before Bailey Ward finished things with a scoreless seventh.

“We probably could have let [Williams] pitch the seventh inning,” Coursey said. “If he’s hitting his spots, he’s tough to beat. He can mix in his fastball, his curveball, his slider, and his changeup has been working the last couple of outings as well.”

The outcome had long been decided by the time Williams’ outing was finished.

Woodland scored two runs in each of the first two innings.

Ludy’s single brought home Frye and Reaid in the first, Frye doubled home Garrett Cornett and scored on Reaid’s single in the second, and Dylan Webb and Cornett had RBI singles of their own in the third.

“We just got in one of those grooves where everyone was seeing it and putting it in play,” Coursey said. “We had some really well-hit balls all day long.”

Paulding managed shutout innings in the fourth and fifth, but Woodland was right back at it in the sixth, with Stansel’s line-drive single scoring Williams.

That was a prelude to the big inning in the top of the seventh, when Woodland scored five runs to put a bow on the victory.

Toby Queen scored on a passed ball, Reaid walked with the bases loaded, and Williams’ grounder was mishandled to score another run. Ludy’s fielder’s-choice groundout scored Frye to make it 11-1, and Stansel capped the scoring with another RBI single, scoring Reaid.

Reaid was 4-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs in the win, giving him a six-hit day.

Frye and Williams were right behind with two hits apiece in the second game, bringing their day’s total up to four each. Frye scored three times in the nightcap.

Those three were supported by Cornett and Stansel, who each had three hits in the second game.

The wins bring Woodland to 14-8 overall and, as mentioned, 5-5 in region play, setting up what will likely be a dogfight among six teams for three playoff spots under undefeated Carrollton.

“We kind of put ourselves back in the picture, or at least where we can make some noise, make it competitive,” Coursey said. “There’s not really an easy win in our region, so we’ve been fortunate to be that team the last few games that’s showed up and played.”