After three weeks of non-conference play, the ECI Bulldogs opened their region schedule against Jenkins County on Tuesday.
The War Eagles arrived at Joe Harvey Field with a 5-3 record. They, too, like the Dawgs, packed some pretty tough competition into their schedule to warm up for region play.
A recurring theme for the Dawgs, another pitcher’s duel would be in the works. Aside from a couple of walks and an error, both teams would struggle to find the bases with only one hit after four complete innings.
The bottom of the fifth would be the first sign of life from the Dawgs’ offense. Chase Whitehead led off the inning with a double. A throwing error by the pitcher on the sacrifice bunt by Stewart would put runners on first and third for senior Jeremy Jones. Jones’ approach would be the right one as he grounded out to the second baseman, scoring Whitehead, moving the courtesy runner, Aiden McQuaig, into scoring position. Two batters later, Trey Hughes would single on a hard ground ball up the middle. McQuaig’s speed would be too much to contain as he rounded third, giving the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead after five innings.
The bottom of the sixth saw the Dawgs start with a similar bang. Natavus Robertson led off the inning with a triple and would score on Hudson Henry’s one-out single.
Joseph Stewart continued his dominance on the mound. The junior would go the distance, scattering 4 hits and 1 earned run.
Today’s high school baseball has placed a greater emphasis on pitch counts. Players are no longer able to start multiple games per week and, in some cases, are only allowed to toe the rubber once over the course of a week. As important as the final stat line is, efficiency has been Stewarts M.O. this season. In his seven innings of work, he would only need 70 pitches to send the War Eagles back to Millen, dropping Game 1 to the Dawgs 3-1.
The Swainsboro Tigers drove the short trip to Twin City on Wednesday. The Dawgs defeated the Tigers earlier in the season 2-0. This contest would be much different.
Taking the mound for the Dawgs would be Robertson. In his second start of the season, Robertson would struggle to consistently find the strike zone. In fact, all of the pitchers on the day would struggle finding the zone for both teams leading to a not-so-subtle critique of the umpires from both sets of bleachers.
The Tigers took a 3-0 lead going into the fourth when the Bulldogs came storming back. Stewart would single followed by a walk, a Jones bunt single, and an error by the Tiger shortstop to score the Dawgs first run. A bases loaded hit batter would score Charlie Rehberg. Jack Walden’s chopper to the third baseman was too much to handle, scoring Jones. Robertson would hit into a fielder’s choice to score Bryce Kearson, giving the Bulldogs the lead 4-3.
The Bulldog defense played a sound game, but free bases and timely hits by the Tiger offense would be the tale in this one. The tight strike zone would see four Bulldog pitchers give up 9 walks while allowing 9 hits.
Jones would continue his torrid hitting, going 2-3 on the day with an RBI. Kearscon, Hughes, Walden, Robertson, and Whitehead would all finish the day with an RBI as the Tigers defeated the Dawgs 8-6.
The final game of the week would take place on Friday, the last region contest against Jenkins County. The Bulldogs have done well in low-scoring games this season, and that would be the case again.
Senior Trey Hughes would take the mound against the region foe and pitch seven innings of lights-out baseball. With a 2-1 strike to ball ratio, Hughes would carve up the War Eagle offense, recording 9 strikeouts while allowing only four baserunners over seven innings. The defense turned in another stellar performance behind the senior, who recorded his second win of the season.
The Bulldog offense was nearly as quiet as their counterparts. The score remained 0-0 until the top of the fifth when Hughes knocked in Kearson to score the game’s first run. In the sixth inning, two freshmen inflicted the damage with Hudson Henry driving in Walden on a fielder’s choice. Caleb Avery would plate the Bulldogs final run on the night after scoring on a fielder’s choice to give the Bulldogs the win, 3-0.
This week, the Dawgs will play McIntosh County Academy for their region match-up. Game 1 was set for Monday in Twin City with Game 2 taking place at McIntosh on Friday. Mixed in on Wednesday, the Dawgs host Treutlen County at 5:30 p.m. Results were not available at the time of publication. Go Dawgs!