After opening the day with an 8-0 win, Walton couldn’t complete the sweep and lost the nightcap 2-1 to Tift County, forcing today’s decisive third game at 4 p.m.
The Raiders (22-9) won Game 1 behind big performances on the mound and at the plate by Bradley Schwartz, but things weren’t as easy sailing in the ensuing Game 2. Will White managed five scoreless innings for Walton, but Tift County’s Zach Bullard connected on a home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the Blue Devils (19-15) their first run of the entire day.
With the game tied at 1-all, Jonah Reyes then gave Tift new life with a sacrifice fly to bring home the winning run and extend the Class AAAAAA quarterfinal-round series into Game 3.
“It’s anybody’s ballgame, isn’t it?” Walton coach Shane Amos said. “It’s one of those things. That’s why you play a series.
“The first game, everything went our way. We hit the ball really well and, you know, in the second, we didn’t hit the ball well. It really just came down to that.”
Walton couldn’t do wrong in the first game.
Schwartz pitched a complete game, with six hits, two strikeouts and just one walk. He helped himself at the dish as well, going 2-for-3 with a triple and a solo homer.
“He was very efficient with all of his pitches and kept them off balance,” Amos said. “He did a great job. He had three pitches working for strikes, and that helped out a lot.”
Aaron Rzucidlo stood out as well, going 2-for-4 in Game 1 with a three-run homer and five RBIs.
It was Rzucidlo’s solo homer in the top of the fourth inning of Game 2 that gave Walton a 1-0 lead and put them three inning away from advancing to the semifinals.
Walton managed just one other hit, off the bat of Stephen Wrenn, as its offense fizzled down the stretch.
Conversely, Tift’s offense finally found a beat, and it happened to be at the most pivotal point of the day.
“They got the hits when they needed them,” Amos said of the final inning in Game 2. “It’s just that simple.”
Caleb Bohan entered to pitch for the Raiders in the bottom of the seventh, surrendering a double off the wall. It appeared that the batter, Zeke Dodson, was thrown out making his way to second base, but the umpire called it safe.
Dodson soon advanced to third on a wild pitch and came home to his teammates after a line drive to left field flew just deep enough to allow the run.
While going from a dominating win to a demoralizing one-run loss might be draining, Amos insisted it was type of fight he expected.
“Whether we were in the last bit of it or the first bit of it, we’ve got to come out (today), and we’ve got to play,” Amos said.