Two of the top Region 4AAAAA contenders faced off Friday night on the baseball diamond as the Jones County Greyhounds (12-6) traveled to Locust Grove to take on the Wildcats (12-6). Locust Grove started the night undefeated in region play and sent the University of Florida commit Nolan Crisp to the mound to stay in the top spot. Jones County Coach Jason Page countered with the tall right-handed pitcher Hunter Pierce who kept Locust Grove off balance all night by changing speeds and locations. The Greyhounds used aggressive baserunning, a costly early mistake by the Wildcats and solid defense to win 4-2 and make the region standings even closer.
Crisp got the first two outs of the game quickly, but Jones County loaded the bases on two walks and a hit by Ty Gordon. However, Crisp struck out Pierce to prevent any damage. In the top of the second, Seth Daniels led off with a routine groundout to second but was awarded first on a catcher’s interference call against Locust Grove. The Greyhounds capitalized on the Wildcat mistake when Chase Green followed with a single and then Jackson Mix crushed a double to right center to score the first run of the game. Colby Gordon kept the rally going with a single to right that scored Green, but a perfect relay thrown from Wildcat Luke Welborn cut down Mix trying to score, and the Greyhounds led 2-0.
The Wildcats responded immediately in the bottom of the second, they loaded the bases on three consecutive singles by Kennesaw State commit Austin Moody, Luke Welborn and Kole Vickers and looked to be on the verge of a big inning. Pierce responded by getting the next batter to hit into a pitcher-catcher-first double play and it looked like he would find a way to wiggle out of the inning unscathed, but Tommy Lamnek picked his teammates up with a two-out double that scored both runs and tied the game up at 2-2.
The Greyhounds turned the game over to their speed and aggressive base running to retake the lead in the top of the third, Ty Gordon reached on a one out single and Coach Page called for the hit-and-run with Pierce at the plate, who grounded out to short, but Gordon never paused as he rounded second and forced an errant throw across the diamond that allowed him to score. They would add another run in the top of the fifth when Colby Gordon opened the inning with a walk, stole a base and scored on a Brandin Johnson single to take a 4-2 lead.
From the mound, Pierce settled down after the second inning. He pitched to contact and only gave up three hits over the final five innings on his was to a complete game win. Wildcat pitcher Crisp got better as the game went along, pitched into the sixth inning and struck out nine Greyhounds on his way to the tough luck loss.
For the Wildcats, Owen Marchant and Vickers both added two hit and Joe Roden pitched a perfect inning and a third in relief of Crisp.
As they got ready to board the bus back to Gray, Coach Page shared his perspective on Pierce’s complete game performance, “Hunter did a good night tonight throwing strikes, we don’t have dominating pitchers on our team that will get the strikeouts, we pitch to contact and get the defense to do the work. It worked for us and we got the win.”
Locust Grove Head Coach Stephen Phillips lamented the mistakes afterwards, “We just need to do a better job at the little things to win. We will learn and move on to the next one.” They next one is quick, the Wildcats travel to Gray on Monday to play the Greyhounds in the final game of the series. With big series against Ola and Union Grove on the horizon, Monday’s game has taken on even more importance for Locust Grove.