LaFAYETTE, Ga. - The last thing Eric Beagles wanted Monday was drama. With a do-or-die game looming Thursday, the Heritage High School baseball coach just wanted his team to focus and take care of business.
The Generals did just that, collecting 12 hits and taking advantage of eight errors to down LaFayette 11-3.
Heritage is tied with Gilmer County, which defeated Dalton on Monday, for the final state playoff spot from Region 7-AAA, and the two will face each other Thursday in Ellijay.
"One down, one big one to go," said Beagles, whose team made three errors. "We've got to have two good days of practice and get some things ironed out and get ready to pack up and go to Gilmer on Thursday. I was very proud of [winning pitcher] Riley Sparks. He gave us some good innings today on the mound, and that was huge for this baseball team."
Sparks allowed seven hits, struck out six and walked no one in a game that was still tight in the middle innings. The fourth LaFayette error of the game allowed a go-ahead run to score in the fourth inning with two out. The extra out also led to Hunter White's RBI single and a 4-2 Heritage lead.
Lee Gibson stretched the lead to three with a home run in the fifth, part of his 4-for-4 game that also included a two-run single in the sixth and an RBI single in the seventh as the Generals (16-8, 13-7) poured it on late.
The feeling after the game was more of relief than anything.
"We knew we couldn't look ahead too much," Gibson said. "They threw great pitchers today, but I just was seeing the ball well. We hit the ball well as a team, the defense played good and we got a big win as we climb toward the state. These are big games. Thursday is huge against Gilmer."
Gibson, the seventh-place hitter, and eighth-place hitter Colby Chattin reached base in all nine plate appearances. Chattin reached on two hits, a walk, a fielder's choice and an error. Each scored two runs.
"Those guys have been swinging it well and giving us some good production," Beagles said. "The guys at the bottom have a lot of confidence right now, and that's big for us as we move forward. This game was still touch and go for us, and those guys came through when we needed it."
White and Jake Sampson added two hits each. John Stansell had a two-run homer for the Ramblers.
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.