FOLKSTON, Ga. — Though nothing really was settled Saturday during the doubleheader start to the GHSA Class A public school baseball championship series, one coach learned something important about his team.
Gordon Lee and Charlton County split Saturday, with Charlton's Indians pulling away late to win game one 11-4 and the Trojans riding another Conard Broom gem to win 10-2. The finale is set for Monday at 3:30 p.m. at Charlton County.
Gordon Lee rarely has been pushed this year but fell behind early in a very sloppy opener and didn't resemble the team that previously had not lost to a public school.
"After that first game my biggest fear was how would we respond," Trojans coach Mike Dunfee said. "The last time we lost a first game of a series was [last year] against Providence Christian, and we didn't respond well. The way they responded today -- hey, baby, let's rest up tomorrow and suit it up for one game Monday for it all. I love the way they responded."
That response started between games when senior first baseman Bryce Bailey gathered the team together and reminded them of what was on the line.
"We were down and everybody was flat, so I had to do something to get them back up," Bailey said. "I just said that this could be the last time some of us play the game, so everyone needed to do the best they can and to forget that first game."
Bailey didn't just talk the talk. With the Trojans trailing 1-0 in game two after squandering a good scoring shot in the second inning, Bailey came to bat in the third with runners on second and first and two out. He worked Charlton pitcher Scott Beasley to a 2-2 count and lined an RBI single up the middle. The hit seemed to energize the Trojans as Jake Rogers followed with an RBI double and Branton Phillips made it 4-1 with a two-run single.
"All of a sudden, he's in the box with guys on base and I knew something good was going to happen," Dunfee said of Bailey. "He was focused and he got the job done and showed the guys it could be done."
Broom took control from there, allowing no more than a single runner until the seventh. He went the distance, allowing five hits and striking out eight. The Trojans gave him some insurance with two runs in the fourth on RBI singles from Conner Coakley and Tanner Sexton, then opened a big lead with four in the sixth -- Bailey driving in two with a double and Rogers, who was 4-for-4, following with an RBI double.
Jacob Baxter was a thorn in the Trojans' side all afternoon, especially in game one when he was 4-for-4 with three RBIs and reached another time on one of the eight walks issued by four Gordon Lee pitchers.
For Dunfee, the first game looked as if his team had walked the 400 miles to Folkston.
"We had -- what? -- eight walks and three hit batters, and if you add three errors ... that's just not us," he said. "We never settled into that first game, for whatever reason. They're a good team, so hat's off to them for that game. But we haven't had a game like that all season."
Two Charlton errors led to a single run in the first inning for the Trojans, but they gave the run right back in the bottom half, though pitcher Phillips managed to escape with the bases loaded and just the one run. He was relieved in the third, though, trailing 3-1 with one on and no outs after allowing eight baserunners.
Freshman Tucker Bradley kept the Trojans in the game, allowing one run in 3 1/3 innings, and when Cody Wilson and Adam Vandiver had consecutive RBI singles in the fifth, Gordon Lee trailed just 4-3. However, Charlton scored two in the fifth and five in the sixth to win going away.
"Once that game was over, I wanted them to forget it," Dunfee said. "And they did. Now we get to play for it all Monday."
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296.
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 ...