Tuesday June 18th, 2024 11:40PM

Baseball playoffs: Bluff splits with HIES in 4A semis

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — For the first time in the 2024 playoffs, Cherokee Bluff will face a do-or-die game to advance.

And Bears coach Jeremy Kemp seemed almost glad about it.


“We’re excited about the opportunity to have our backs against the wall and learn from being in that situation,” Kemp said following his team’s Class 4A semifinal split with Holy Innocents’ on Saturday at Bluff Ballpark.

Bluff took the opening game 14-4 in five innings while the Golden Bears rallied to win Game 2, 6-3, to force a deciding Game 3 on Monday. The Game 2 loss for Bluff (31-5) snapped its 15-game win streak coming into the series.

However, despite routing HIES (22-13) in the opening game and having the tying run at the plate in the sixth inning of the second game, Kemp said they will need a much better effort on Monday if they want to be a part of their first-ever championship series.

“I’m not real happy because we didn’t have a great day overall,” he said. “The first game got away from (HIES) in a hurry but we weren’t really hitting the ball that well. We got caught up in stuff we can’t control and we have to focus on the things we can control and do those things to the best of our ability. We have to keep our composure.”

Clutch hits, which the Bears had been very adept at during the first three rounds of the playoffs, were hard to come by against the Golden Bears. Bluff was 5-of-23 (.217) with 5 RBI with RISP in the two games and just 1-of-9 in Game 2. They stranded 21 runners, 14 in scoring position, and left 11 on base in the second game.

Bluff also committed a huge error in Game 2 that led to three unearned runs on one play that proved to be the difference.

“We have to be better. If we had done what we’re supposed to do in the field, we wouldn't have been in this situation,” Kemp said.

First pitch for Monday is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Bluff Ballpark, with the winner advancing to the Class 4A championship series. 

The winner will play the top-ranked Starr’s Mill beginning on either Friday or Saturday in Rome.

Game 1: Cherokee Bluff 14, Holy Innocents’ 4

Both pitchers got through the first inning without any damage. Then the craziness started in the second.

In the second, the Golden Bears got a two-out single from Whit McGrotty, but Tucker Holton struck out Braxton Padgett to end the inning. In the bottom of the second, Bluff grabbed the lead.

Landon Kemp walked to lead off, and after Bubba Coleman struck out, Caleb Davis and Tanaka Mukono also walked to load the bases with one out and the top of the order due up. Ty Corbin hit into a fielder’s choice to home, but Jackson was called for a balk to bring in Davis. KT Thompson walked to reload the bases, and Caleb Miele also walked, bringing in Mukono for a 2-0 lead.

HIES answered in the fourth when Davis Jabaley and Amaree Griffin hit back-to-back doubles with two out to cut the lead to 2-1. Bluff looked to be out of the inning, but the third out at first was overturned, allowing HEIS to tie the game at 2 on what turned out to be an error. The Golden Bears then took the lead 3-2 on a bases-loaded walk to JD Woodham.

Bluff responded back in the bottom of the inning, scoring one run on a wild pitch and then retaking the lead 4-3 when Ty Corbin scored on an error during a double-steal attempt. They reclaimed when Miele, who walked, stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch, scored on another overturned call when Kemp struck out on a pitch in the dirt. 

The HEIS catcher tossed the ball back to the mound instead of throwing it to first, and Miele ran in from third while the Golden Bears ran off the field. After initially calling Kemp out, the call was overturned, allowing the run to count.

Bluff ended it in the fifth, scoring nine runs on four hits, but a huge error in the inning eventually led to eight unearned runs. Corbin ripped a single to center, scoring two runs, and Thompson put it away with a bloop single to center, scoring Mukono for the big win.

Game 2: Holy Innocents’ 6, Cherokee Bluff 3

HEIS took the early 1-0 lead in the first inning on a RBI single from Matt Luigs. Meanwhile, Golden Bears’ starter Davis Harper worked in and out of early trouble.

Bluff got a pair of two-out singles from Miele and England, but Harper got Vokal to fly out to center to end the first. In the second, Bluff loaded the bases on a single by Caleb Davis and two hit batters. But Thompson grounded out to short as the Bears stranded five runners in the first two innings.

In the bottom of the second, HEIS loaded the bases and took advantage of a huge Bluff error. Jackson hit an RBI single to center, scoring one run, but Corbin overran the ball, which rolled all the way to the wall. Two more runs scored, as did Jackson, who was able to come all the way around to make it 5-0.

Bluff opened the fourth with a double by Coleman and a walk to Caleb Davis and Corbin drove in Coleman with a sac fly to right. Thompson followed with a wind-aided single to left to close the gap to 5-2.

HIES responded back in the bottom of the inning with a chance to break it open, loading the bases with no outs. But all the Golden Bears could get was a sac fly from Luigs off reliever Logan Robinson to push the lead to 6-2. They stranded two in scoring position, leaving the door open for the Bears.

England opened the fifth with a solo shot to center to trim the lead to 6-3. The Bears got the tying run to the plate with no outs, but Coleman and Davis struck out, and Mukono hit into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.

Robinson did his job, retiring 9 of the 10 batters he faced to give his offense a chance.

But the offense, which came in averaging over 10 runs/game in the playoffs, stranded 10 in the second game, six in scoring position.

  • Associated Categories: Sports, High School Sports, Top Sports Stories
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