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Dawgs tamp out Blazers

The Baconton Community Charter School Blazers were anything but ablaze in the opening round of the GHSA baseball state playoffs. Emanuel County Institute extinguished their opponent’s hopes for a state title in two games, winning a doubleheader on the road to advance to Round 2.

Both Game 1 and Game 2 were played Friday, and the Bulldogs opened the series with a close but sufficient 3–1 victory.

Baconton got on the board first, but ECI held the Blazers there through solid defense and even better pitching. The Bulldogs answered in the top of the fifth as Gabe Lee had an RBI grounder to make the score 1–1.

ECI and Baconton stayed knotted there until the top of the sixth when the Dawgs stole the lead. Aden McQuaig drew a walk, scoring 1 run in the process.

Lawson Mercer earned the victory on the hill for ECI. He went seven innings, allowing just 1 run on 1 hit while striking out eight Blazers.

Offensively, Bryce Kearson went 3-for-4 at the plate to lead the Bulldogs in hits.

Equally impressive as the offensive and pitching efforts, the Dawg defense didn’t commit a single error in the field. Jack Walden had eight put-outs.

Although Game 1 was a close victory, it was enough to give the Dawgs the momentum heading into Game 2. The margin of victory was greater this go ‘round as ECI came out on top by 4 runs, 6–2.

ECI was the first to strike in Game 2. The bats got started as Walden singled on a 2–0 count, scoring 1 run.

The Dawgs went on to pound out eight more hits on the day. Walden as well as Kearson and Mercer all managed multiple hits, 2 apiece, to lead their teammates at the dish.

In addition to his 2-hit outing, Kearson earned the win for the Bulldogs on the mound. The righty lasted 4.1 innings, allowing 2 hits and 1 run while, like Mercer in Game 1, striking out eight Blazers.

Kearson had a bit of help in Game 2, however, as Jacob Durden and Joseph Stewart both came out of the bull pen and helped close in relief.

All in all, head coach Brooks Collins is pleased with his team heading into the second round.

“This young Bulldog team made a 3.5-hour trip down to Baconton in southwest Georgia and swept the series. Lawson Mercer had a great performance on the mound in Game 1 by going the distance while only allowing 1 hit. The Dawgs rode that momentum into Game 2 and woke the bats up to sweep the series,” he said. “In this game, it’s about getting hot at the right time, and I believe that we are showing signs of that. We had multiple guys who had great at-bats and made some great plays defensively that allowed us to advance.”

With the win, ECI advances and will take on a veteran Crawford County team, the No. 1 seed out of Region 7.

The 16–10 Bulldogs face the 19–11 Eagles in a doubleheader on Wednesday, May 4, at 4:30 and 7 p.m. The rubber match, if needed, will be played Thursday, May 5, beginning at 2 p.m.

Because Crawford County is the higher seed, they will host.

Look for results in next week’s edition of The Crossroads Chronicle.

All three of the other teams from ECI’s region remain alive. These include: No. 1 Metter, No. 3 Bryan County, and No. 2 Claxton.

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