With nine wins in 14 games coming into Tuesday's crucial Region 7 game at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, the Coahulla Creek Colts obviously had not played like a first-year program very often this season.
And even after a three-error first inning helped dig a 4-0 hole against the Warriors, the Colts pulled themselves up, fought through the miscues and escaped with a 6-5 win that keeps them in the thick of the Class AA playoff race.
Coahulla Creek (10-5, 5-4) is now tied with LFO (9-6, 5-4) in subregion B for third place with two weeks remaining in the regular season. The top three teams in each subregion will advance to the region tournament.
"They kept battling," winning coach Michael Bolen said. "They had a choice to make: Were they going to tuck their tails and pack it up or were they going to keep battling? They decided to battle.
"I was disappointed with the way we came out. We were unprepared and unfocused, and we can't afford to do that. The finish line's out there, but we can't look at it because we have to take this step by step."
It was the fourth inning before Bolen's Colts settled down. They had picked up a run in the third on Austin Busby's single but left the bases loaded. Starting pitcher Tyler Higgins worked around another error in the third -- the fifth of what would be six for the game -- and his teammates tied the score in the fourth on an RBI single by Cody Wood and Josh Swinford's two-run double.
The score remained tied until the sixth when speedy No. 9 Colts hitter Wood walked with two out and stole second. The throw went into the outfield, with Wood scampering to third. He then scored when the next throw went into the LFO dugout. Leadoff hitter Swinford then hit his first home run of the season for what turned out to be the winning score.
"I was just trying to hit one hard and I guess I got hold of it," Swinford said almost apologetically. "This is a big win for us, but that wasn't how we wanted to start, that's for sure. We had to focus on the little things and get our momentum back. Once we strung a few hits together, we settled down."
The Warriors rallied in the seventh but had two runners thrown out on the bases, including the potential tying run at third to end the game. A Cole Ellis single scored Levi Scudgins with two out, but pinch-runner Noah Blevins, after stealing second, was thrown out at third by the ever-present Swinford when the throw to second went into center field.
"It wasn't a pretty game," Bolen said, managing a smile. "We made mental errors, fielding errors and baserunning errors, but we will learn from them. It's a young team and you can't talk them through it; they just have to live it and deal with it."
Swinford had three of the Colts' 10 hits, Busby adding two, while Ellis had three of LFO's nine.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...