If the Dade County High School baseball team makes the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, what's transpired the past six days will likely be the key stretch of the season, even though this crucial period began with a loss.
That loss, 2-0 to defending state champion Calhoun, was followed by a win against Gordon Central and Tuesday's 6-2 comeback victory at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, a team the Wolverines (9-4, 2-2) likely will battle for one of the Region 7-AA playoff spots. The significance of the three games wasn't lost on winning pitcher Travis Core.
"We're a very talented team with the ability to beat any team and lose to them," said Core, who allowed no earned runs and just two hits in improving to 3-0 for the season. "We just have to play to our level. It was a good thing even though it was a loss at Calhoun. We knew Calhoun is the top dog and we played with them. We don't want to settle for losses, and now we know we don't have to."
Dade trailed after two first-inning errors let in two unearned runs. It didn't take long for coach Matthew High to get his team's attention.
"They just realized LFO came to play and if they didn't settle down they were going to run us out of the ballpark," he said. "They got fired up a little bit and started to make the plays defensively.
"I can't say enough about Travis Core. He comes out every day and gives his all. He could have easily gotten down after giving up two runs in the first without giving up a hit, but he threw six shutout innings."
The Dade rally began with Core's bunt single to lead off the fourth. He later scored on Brandon Smith's groundout. Travis Nunley's two-out double tied the game in the fifth, and the Wolverines took the lead with the help of an LFO error and Trent Faircloth's RBI single in the sixth. They added two runs in the seventh on Rhett Lusk's single.
Core gave up his only hits in the third, but one of the runners was cut down trying to advance on a pitch that eluded catcher Cole Gossett and Core struck out cleanup hitter Levi Scudgins to end the inning. LFO (7-6-1, 2-1) had two runners on in the seventh, but Core got two groundouts to end the final threat.
"It was frustrating early and I couldn't find my spots," Core said. "I was proud of my guys for not giving up. The bats were struggling the first round through the order, but they stuck with it and got it going. Everybody could have easily gotten down after that first inning, but this team isn't like that."
Lusk had two hits and two RBIs for Dade, and Nunley added two hits.