“Every inning except for the fourth and the seventh, we got two quick outs offensively and then we started hitting. I think we got 10 hits and I think probably eight of ’em were with two outs. We did a great job of two-out hitting,” Wildcats coach Corey Gochee said. “The first inning we scored two runs — we did everything with two outs. In the fourth inning, we got a guy on early and ended up pushing him through on a couple of errors, I think. We did a great job hitting with two outs. We just need to do a little better job before two outs, but, I mean, it’s Cass-Woodland. It’s gonna be tight, always. They’re a good club; they play well.”
Colonels coach Todd Eubanks noted that his team had a hard time closing out innings while Woodland made plays on defense.
“We struggled finishing innings,” Eubanks said. “I think they had a two-out hit in just about every inning for them. They kept swinging the bats well. They had 10 hits to our three or four.
“They made the plays. They made routine plays. They made tough plays. They came out, they did well. Coach Gochee did a good job getting ’em ready, and they played better, they won.”
Cass’s Tyler Gates opened the game with two outs on three pitches, but Woodland responded with four straight hits — including RBI singles from Tyler Stringer and Luke Patterson — to take a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
The Colonels avoided surrendering more runs than they could have to the visiting Wildcats in the third.
Following a base-running gaffe by Woodland for its second out, the Wildcats got a single to left field from Jordan Osteen and then benefited from two throwing errors on Cass, which pulled first baseman Chaz Wilson off the bag both times — with the latter error scoring Woodland’s third run after Wilson missed on a swipe tag as he came down from retrieving a high throw.
The Colonels cut into the Wildcats’ three-run lead in the fifth with Sam Ayers picking up a two-out single and then advancing to second on a pitch in the dirt. Ayers eventually came home on Connor Law’s hit to left. Law was caught trying to stretch a single into a double for the final out of the inning.
The next opportunity to score for the hosts came in the bottom of the seventh when Brandon Etheridge’s double to right gave Cass a runner in scoring position with one out. Cameron Ray hit back to the mound on the Colonels’ next at-bat, and after pitcher Robert Harris looked to third, he recorded the out at first. Stringer, Woodland’s first baseman, then fired down to third for a 1-3-5 double play, eliminating Etheridge at third following his stumble getting off of second.
Harris pitched a complete-game, four-hitter for the Wildcats, striking out four while while walking one and hitting a batter.
“[He] was able to keep the pitch count down. I think he finished somewhere around 85 pitches. [For a] seven-inning game, I mean, that’s awesome,” Gochee said of the 6-foot-1, 160-pound Harris, a College of Charleston signee. “We stress three pitches — win two out of three and on or off on four pitches. … We want our goal to be somewhere around 12 to 15 pitches an inning. He did that. He was able to complete the game that way.”
Gates, Cass’s starter, didn’t fare so badly either. He gave up 10 hits, but half of those came in the first two innings — including four in the first. Gates yielded two earned runs with four strikeouts and three walks. Etheridge pitched for the Colonels as well, giving up no runs, walking two and striking out one in his lone inning on the mound.
Camden McGill (2 for 4), Harris (1 for 2, double, two walks), Stringer (1 for 4, RBI), Mason Robinson (2 for 3, walk), Patterson (2 for 4, double, RBI), Hunter Siniard (1 for 3) and Jordan Osteen (1 for 3) had hits for Woodland.
Ayers (2 for 3, double) nearly had half of Cass’s hits and broke up Harris’s no-hit bid with his extra-base hit in the third. Other Colonels hitters were Law (1 for 3, RBI), Gates (1 for 2, hit by a pitch) and Etheridge (1 for 3, double).
The victory allowed the Wildcats to improve to 7-4 overall, 4-2 in the region — and provided them with an opportunity to bounce back from a 9-6 loss against Forsyth Central Friday.
“This is what we did last night, but last night we had a little different outcome. Last night we took a 5-1 lead into the fourth and we give up eight runs, end up losing 9-6. Last night against Central we just couldn’t answer. We didn’t have that spark. We let up,” Gochee said. “[Today] our focus was getting on and off the field in 12 seconds or less — that’s what we preach. We stress a lot of hustle and I think it translates when we get in the box, and that’s what I want to see. I think we got a couple of kids thrown out on the bases, but they were aggressive. [If] a kid doesn’t get the ball behind the plate, they’re safe easily. I’ll take that all day ’cause it’s guys being aggressive and guys putting [themselves] in motion. And that’s our goal, is to go hard every chance, every pitch. We really stress, every pitch, [to] go as hard as you can. If it doesn’t work out, win the next one — go as hard as you can.”
Woodland managed to win the next one, but the Colonels suffered through their first two-game losing streak of the season after losing another close game — they fell 11-10 at Lambert on Friday.
In that game, Cass led 2-0 in the first off of run-scoring hits from Gates (double) and Williams (single) and added another run in the second after back-to-back doubles from Etheridge and Ray to lead off the inning.
The Longhorns answered with six runs in the second to take a three-run lead, but the Colonels were equal to the task, putting up their own six-spot in the fourth. Cass scored twice on wild pitches, once on a Dalton Parham sacrifice fly and once each on a bases-loaded walk and a hit batter. Law also added an RBI single in the inning.
Lambert pushed through a run in the fourth to make it 9-7, but the Colonels restored the three-run advantage with Gates’ leadoff home run in the sixth. The Longhorns, however, added two runs in the sixth and had their chances for a win kept alive with consecutive Cass errors in the seventh. Brian Watson’s walkoff single gave Lambert the win.
Following another loss on Saturday, the Colonels have nearly a week off before playing again, with the Georgia High School Graduation Test occupying the early part of the week.
“We got graduation testing coming up this week, so we got a long break. We’re off till Friday. We’ll use this time to try to heal up a little bit and swing the bat a little more in practice and just get refocused and go finish out the region,” said Eubanks, whose team dropped to 6-4 overall, 1-3 in the region, with the defeat.
Cass travels to Forsyth Central (8-1-1, 4-0) for a 5:55 p.m. game Friday.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats also will be affected by the GHSGT and don’t play again until Thursday when they host Creekview (6-3, 3-1) at 5:55 p.m.
“We’re almost to the halfway point,” Gochee said in regard to the 11-team region schedule. “I’ve stressed to these guys all the time our goal is two out of three, win two out of three. We get to the playoffs, it’s the same goal — you win two out of three. So that’s been our focus. I believe that 14 region wins will get you in the playoffs, and that’s what our goal is.
“Of course, we want to win every game. Like right now, we’re starting over. We want to win two out of three for next week.”
Woodland closes out the week with another home game Friday against Lambert (5-3, 1-2). That game will be at 5:55 p.m. as well.
Cass ends its week Saturday with a 2 p.m. game with visiting Chattahoochee (1-9, 1-4).