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Bulldogs moving on to Elite 8

The Emanuel County Institute Bulldogs clipped the wings of the Crawford County Eagles last week, ending their Sweet 16 opponent’s run at the GHSA Class A baseball title. The Dawgs squeaked by Crawford County in Game 1 but would seal the deal without a doubt in Game 2, run-ruling the Eagles.

In the first game, ECI struck first, taking the lead with 4 runs in the fourth. Jack Walden had a grand slam on a 2–0 count, scoring all 4 runs.

ECI then built a 5-run lead in the fifth inning and held off a threat from Crawford County, who scored 4 runs in a failed comeback in the sixth inning.

Lawson Mercer got the win for the Dawgs. He went 5 innings, allowing 4 runs on 7 hits while striking out two Eagles. Bryce Kearson and Jacob Durden both entered the game from the bull pen and closed in relief. Kearson recorded the last 4 outs to earn the save.

Offensively, ECI tallied 13 hits throughout Game 1. Walden led the way. In addition to his fourth-inning grand slam, he singled in the first, doubled in the third, and singled again in the fifth to amass a 4-for-5 game record at the plate.

Mercer, Kearson, and Charlie Rehberg all had multiple hits for the Dawgs as well.

The final score was 9–8, ECI.

Coach Brooks Collins kept his boys on the right track and guided them to the necessary second win to eliminate the need for the rubber match. ECI came out on top 12–2, thanks to 8 timely runs in a big fourth inning.

Mercer, Kearson, James Parker, Joseph Stewart, and Aden McQuaig all had RBIs.

On the hill, Stewart picked up the victory. The righty lasted 6 innings, allowing 7 hits and 2 runs while striking out 4 of Crawford County’s hitters.

Looking back, Coach Collins says his team had a slightly uphill battle in the first game heading into the second.

“We faced a little adversity in Game 2 after winning a very close Game 1 that could’ve went either way,” he said. “Down two starters in Game 2, freshmen Kanyon Thompson and James Parker’s numbers were called, and they proved to be ready.”

On that note, Collins continues to appreciate the opportunity to coach this team.

“This team is very fun to coach. I think tonight they realized what playing for each other was all about. We were in a bind with a couple of guys going down to injuries, but they never panicked. They stayed the course and competed pitch-by-pitch, at-bat–by–at-bat that, in turn, would send us to the Elite 8. It was a true ‘team’ victory over a veteran Crawford County team.”

With the win, ECI survived the playoffs again and advanced to the Elite 8. This, Collins says, is a feat that was last accomplished in 2018.

The Bulldogs are set to take a long trip north to Commerce in another best-of-three series. Game 1 was set for Tuesday at 4 p.m. with Game 2 to follow. Should a Game 3 be necessary, it will be played Wednesday at 2 p.m. Look for results in next week’s paper.

One other team from ECI’s region remains alive. The No. 1 seed from Region 3, Metter, beat out Georgia Military and will take on Gordon Lee, the No. 1 team from Region 6.

Claxton was defeated by Schley County, the top team from Region 5, while Bryan County was beaten by ACE Charter, the No. 1 team from Region 7.