SMYRNA — Wheeler broke a 2-all tie with a five-run third inning and went on to earn a 10-3 Region 2AAAAAAA victory over Campbell on Friday at Lattanzi Field.
The Wildcats (12-10, 5-5) generated 12 hits and took advantage of four Spartan errors in taking the win. Wheeler also beat Campbell 6-0 at home Tuesday, and the final game in the series is scheduled for April 18.
The win pushed Wheeler into sole possession of third place in the region behind Newnan and East Coweta, with five region games remaining.
“It’s always important to pick up region wins,” Wheeler coach Mark Collins said. “We’re still fighting for a playoff spot, and this puts us back in the mix at the No. 3 spot.
“We’ve beaten Campbell at home, and now here at their place. They’re a scrappy team, and they played well, but our guys did a great job hitting the ball and moving guys around. That was a really good effort from them (Friday).”
Mike Musser batted 3-for-3 with a double, run scored and five RBIs to pace the Wheeler attack, while Brian Yapkowitz was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Gabe Ahn had a sacrifice fly in the Wildcats’ two-run fourth inning.
Will Larsen and Nate Richardson both went 2-for-3 with three runs scored. Richardson also doubled and stole a base. Luke Simmons batted 2-for-4, while Jeff Norman singled and scored a run. Noah Welkis doubled in one of his four at-bats. Courtesy runner Michael Porter scored the first of Wheeler’s five third-inning runs.
Wheeler’s performance from behind the plate was equaled by the performance in front of it as pitcher Gage Vailes gave up three runs — one earned — on three hits while striking 10 and walking two for a complete-game victory.
“Gage struggled early, but really found his groove as the innings went on,” Collins said. “He really got after it (Friday).”
Musser’s RBI single plated Larsen in the first inning for a 1-0 Wheeler lead, but Campbell (4-12, 3-7) answered in the bottom half as Ethan Mack’s RBI groundout plated Michael Braswell.
Norman reached on a fielder’s choice in the second and later came around to score off of back-to-back Campbell errors inning.
A three-base throwing error in the bottom of the second led to Jordan Newell’s RBI groundout that scored courtesy runner Campbell Sisom, tying the game at 2-all.
Wheeler put the game out of reach with its five-run third and two-run fourth inning. The Wildcats sent 10 batters to the plate in the third. They recorded five hits, left runners on first and third and took advantage of one error in the frame.
Back-to-back sacrifice flies from Musser and Ahn in the fourth put Wheeler up 9-2.
Dominic Rutigliano led off the Campbell fourth with a single. Courtesy runner Aiden Daly stole second and scored on Brian Deluyrea’s two-out RBI single for a 9-3 Wheeler margin.
Richardson drew a one-out walk in the sixth, moved to second on a passed ball and scored on Musser’s RBI single for the 10-3 advantage.
Vailes allowed one base runner over the final three innings and collected five of his 10 strikeouts during that span.
“Their kid on the mound threw a great game,” Campbell coach Jeff Searcy said. “Things really got away from us in the third when they scored five runs. Any time you give away five runs to a great team, it’s going to be tough to come back.
“Our kids kept fighting, though. We’re still in the thick of things for fourth place in the region and getting a playoff spot. If we take of our business, the numbers will be there.”