TUNNEL HILL, Ga. - At least half of the crowd that watched Northwest Whitfield lose the first game of its best-of-three baseball series against Stephens County left at some point in game two as the Indians seemed to be pulling away.
They may have made a mistake. They missed a couple of comebacks and a total of 30 runs in the nightcap.
Stephens County won 16-14 after defeating the Bruins 7-1 in the first game, which advances the Indians to the Georgia Class AAAA Elite Eight.
The Bruins will not play again this season. They finished 23-8.
"We did what we expected this season and more," said senior Brady Middleton, who went 4-for-6 with three runs in the two games. "Even when we didn't play our best, we pulled out wins. We always fought.
"We gave it our all, but it wasn't enough."
Players wiped sniffles and a few tears on their jerseys as they prepared the field, as they do after every home game.
"I'm happy with the season but not satisfied until we win our last game," said coach Todd Middleton, father of Brady. "I'm proud of these seniors and looking forward to what we have coming back."
Sophomore Seth Pierce will be back. He started the first game but will have better games in the future. Counterpart Austin Lord struck out nine Bruins in improving to 11-1.
"After I settled in, I get some velocity and hit my spots," Lord said. "Once our bats got us up, I tried to maintain that."
The Indians never stopped hitting, and the Bruins picked up their offense in the second game, during which only two half-innings went scoreless.
Stephens County scored at least one run in all six innings of the second game, playing as the home team. It led 12-7 heading to the top of the sixth, when the Bruins scored six times. They took a 13-12 lead when Wade Terrell emptied the bases with a single to center that the outfielder misplayed, allowing all three runs to score.
"It's been a circus for the last three weeks," Coach Middleton said. "They slowed us down for a bit, but we'd been down before."
Stephens County delivered a blow in the bottom of the sixth when it plated four runs, all with two outs. The Bruins managed one in the top of the seventh and had the tying runs on base.
"It wasn't a matter of pressure," the younger Middleton said. "We ran out of gas."
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.