NORCROSS — Much like Wednesday’s Game 2, Cherokee Bluff took advantage of Greater Atlanta Christian’s mistakes to rally past the Spartans, 4-1, and advance to the Class 3A quarterfinals.
The two foes were tied, 1-1, heading into the seventh inning when the Bears cashed in a handful of Spartan (24-10 Region 5-3A No. 1 seed) errors and had some big hits to capture the series, 2-1, at Hester Field.
"We continued to put pressure on them all night long," Head Coach Jeremy Kemp said. "Some times it worked out and sometimes it didn't ... we had runners thrown out. That's kind of how we've gotten on this little hot streak. We're just trying to put on as much pressure as we can on people. We finally broke it open in the seventh by putting pressure on them, so I'm excited how hard our boys fought. They played awesome."
Bluff (24-10 Region 7-3A No. 2 seed) will travel to Appling County next week for a best of three series in the quarterfinals.
"I know they've got some great pitching. They're a good baseball team," Kemp said about Appling County. "You're not going to run into somebody in the Elite Eight that's not a good baseball team. I'm excited about going down there. We'll travel anywhere as long as we get to keep playing."
The Bears’ pitching was stellar, holding GAC to just one hit through six innings. Tyler Zawacki, who earned the win in relief in Game 2 on Wednesday, tossed six innings, allowing one hit and no earned runs to pick up the Game 3 win. He also struck out five Spartans. Tyas entered in the seventh inning with a runner on and shut down the Spartans comeback try while recording two strikeouts.
"Tyler Zawacki was absolutely incredible," Kemp said. "I can't even explain to you how good Tyler was today and yesterday. He was the best I've ever seen him in the biggest moment. There's no one that works harder than him. It was also awesome to see him get that opportunity."
Bluff grabbed the lead in their first at-bat. Ben Jenkins (2-for-4 with an RBI) singled Dylan Kautz, who doubled to start the inning, home for the 1-0 advantage.
The game stayed that way until the Spartans’ F Hallock scored on a Bluff error.
In the seventh, Bluff’s Jenkins reached on an error, and Bryce England was hit by a pitch, setting up a possible RBI chance for Caleb Miele. Miele took advantage, grounding into a fielder’s choice which scored Jenkins.
The scoring didn’t stop there, a batter later, Brody Beal’s two-out double to left field drove home Miele and on the next at-bat, Reece Chambers singled to score Beal. The Bears led 4-1.
"Bottom line is we did a lot better job than we did earlier in the game of putting the ball in play with two strikes instead of having strikeouts with runners in scoring position," Kemp said. "So, I was proud of our kids. We just made an adjustment, and they did a good job."
Beal was 2-for-3 with one RBI. Miele and Chambers drove in one run apiece.
AREA SCOREBOARD, Thursday, May 6
Pope 5, Buford 3 (Pope advances)
Cedartown 4-4, Flowery Branch 0-3 (Cedartown advances)
Cherokee Bluff 4, Greater Atlanta Christian 1 (Cherokee Bluff advances)
North Hall 12, Hart County 8 (North Hall advances)