ECI baseball traveled to Ocilla to take on the Region 2 runner-up Irwin County Indians. Irwin presented a tough first-round challenge for the Dawgs. Not only did Irwin sport a 24-3 record, but they also are known for having one of the most hostile home field environments in Class A.
The Dawgs appeared to be up to the task early in Game 1. In a “mano y mano” showdown, ECI turned to their stud, Trey Hughes, to toe the rubber. Irwin did the same, turning to their young hurler, Cody Soliday.
Aside from a Hughes walk and single by Natavus Robertson, all remained quiet in the first inning of play. Things appeared shaky as Hughes opened the bottom of the second with a walk, a hit, and a hit-by-pitch to load the bases with just 1 out. The next batter hit a hard ground ball that forced an error and with that, Irwin went up 1-0. Hughes would settle back in, inducing a pair of grounders to escape the inning with limited damage.
ECI would answer in the top of the third. A leadoff walk to Charlie Rehberg would turn into a line drive double-play off the bat of Roberston. With 2 outs, Bryce Kearson singled, then Hughes walked. The runners would wind up on second and third when freshman Jack Walden delivered a line drive to left field, giving the Dawgs a 2-1 lead.
Irwin County then found life. With 2 outs in the bottom of the fourth, the Indians would add 6 runs to their lead. The Bulldog defense could not find an answer amidst a barrage of past balls, walks, errors, and extra base hits. A terrible fourth inning put the Dawgs down 10-2 and would ultimately drop Game 1, 11-5.
In the contest, Bulldog pitching would combine for 6 innings pitched, allowing only 5 earned runs with 4 walks. It was a combination of untimely errors and free bases with timely hitting by the Indians.
Walden led the Dawgs offensively with a 2-4 performance with 3 RBI.
With a quick turnaround, the Dawgs would struggle to right the ship with Game 2 starting shortly after. Kearson would start this one and go 5.1 innings. He held the explosive offense to just 4 earned runs, but errors would haunt the Bulldogs in Game 2.
The defensive struggles seemed to find their way to the batter’s box. Dawg hitters couldn’t produce the timely hitting often required for a playoff run. Indian pitching issued 5 walks, but the Dawgs managed only a lone single by Hughes.
The Bulldogs fell 12-2 to finish their 2021 season.