Allowing a three-run lead in the top of the sixth inning to slip away turned out to be the final stinger, and Sprayberry ended up on the wrong end of an 8-7 loss in the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
It brought Sprayberry’s season to an end after it won the Region 7AAAAA championship.
East Paulding (18-7) put up four runs in the sixth after Sprayberry built a 7-4 lead in the fifth, and the Yellow Jackets were unable to get runs back in the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings.
“If this is the worst thing that can happen for them, they have a pretty good life,” Sprayberry coach Phil Henderson said. “Hats off to them, they beat us.”
East Paulding advanced to the second round and will play at Stephenson.
Sprayberry’s chances of advancing were looking good in the fifth inning after Michael Chavis and Bobby Gauvreau launched back-to-back solo home runs to give the Yellow Jackets their three-run lead.
Those back-to-back homers — one of which was Chavis’ second of the day — came after Sprayberry reliever Gerard Aucoin needed just 10 pitches to retire the side in the top half of the inning.
After Aucoin induced a groundout on the second pitch to start the sixth, that’s when Sprayberry’s troubles began.
Cody Long, who was 2-for-4 in the ninth spot for East Paulding, started the rally with a single. Leadoff hitter Mitchell Webb then hit a double that looked catchable at first, but it sailed over the head of right fielder Michael Kennedy.
After Sprayberry switched pitchers to put Zach Williams against Patrick Johnson in a lefty-lefty matchup, Johnson walked on four pitches to load the bases. And when it looked like Sprayberry could get out of it with a double play, Chavis committed an error at short, allowing Long to score.
Williams went on to strike out Cameron Hughes for the second out, but Webb came home on a dropped third strike to cut the Sprayberry lead to one. Nate Butterworth then delivered a two-run single on the first pitch to give East Paulding the lead.
“They got timely hits and we didn’t make the plays,” Henderson said. “We’ve been making plays all year, but (Saturday), we didn’t make the plays.”
Sprayberry built a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a Chavis solo home run. After East Paulding scored two runs in the third to jump ahead, Spencer Fann hit a three-run double in the bottom of the third for a 4-2 lead.
After East Paulding tied it in the fourth on a two-run home run by Webb, McClure’s RBI single put Sprayberry back in front before the Chavis and Gauvreau home runs gave the Yellow Jackets breathing room.
But when Sprayberry found itself trailing going into the sixth and seventh, the hits never came.
Williams and Chavis walked to get on base in the sixth, but they were left stranded, and East Paulding reliever Butterworth retired the side in the seventh, striking out pinch-hitter Clint Coleman and Alex Endres to end the game.
Chavis was 2-for-2 with his two homers and two intentional walks. Williams was 2-for-3, and Endres was 2-for 4.