Contest good workout for both clubs

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 25, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; Had everyone known the game would have been tied after seven, Vidalia head coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir said, maybe they wouldn&8217;t have agreed to kill it then.

But that&8217;s how it ended.

Players for Vidalia and Caldwell lined up to shake hands with the scoreboard still showing each team with five runs Monday afternoon at Vidalia. Yet at this point with both teams finding out today whom they&8217;ll open up against in the first round, it didn&8217;t make any sense to keep on playing and burning up pitching just before the playoffs.

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So nobody won, but it was just the tuneup the Vikings needed going into the playoffs. It was their first game since losing to Pineville April 13.

&8220;Both teams wanted to win,&8221; Hoffpauir said. &8220;We agreed to it, and the last thing you want to do is get somebody hurt because of this. You could tell we hadn&8217;t played in 10 days. This helped us tremendously. Our batters needed to see live arms, and our pitchers needed to throw.&8221;

It helped for two key reasons &8212; the Vikings got the key hits to drive in runs that they didn&8217;t get just before the break, and left-hander Tony Godbold got in three innings of work in his first outing in about a month.

Godbold did well and got out of a jam with only one run allowed in the seventh when Caldwell tied it up. He hadn&8217;t thrown since going the distance in a gem against Camden-Fairview (Ark.) back in March after hurting his elbow in that game.

The run came unearned after an error allowed Jeremy Brown to reach third from first on a throwing error.

&8220;I got in a jam, but the team helped me out a lot,&8221; Godbold said. &8220;It felt really good to pitch. I didn&8217;t have a problem. I felt fine. I&8217;ve been throwing bullpen a little, but it hasn&8217;t been bothering me because we had a whole week off. I&8217;m fine. I don&8217;t want this to be my last week to play.&8221;

Brown&8217;s single was the only hit Godbold surrendered, and the lefty didn&8217;t throw curveballs to Caldwell&8217;s hitters being his first game back to pitch. But the error put the runners at the corners with no outs, and he got a big strikeout of the next batter for the first out.

The Vikings almost got out of it on a ball up the middle that shortstop Jordan Brewer bare-handed, stepped on second but couldn&8217;t get the runner at first after sending it off balance to Josh Bennett.

That allowed Brown to score and tie the game. Trey Keith&8217;s running catch in deep center ended the inning.

&8220;Tony hadn&8217;t thrown in four weeks, got in there and did a fantastic job,&8221; Hoffpauir said. &8220;That last inning we had a big strikeout with runners at first and third. We got to double-play depth, get a double-play ball but we get a big hop that throws our timing off. But it was great to play, and that was the main thing.&8221;

It was good, too, for the Spartans (23-4-1), who won District 2-3A with an unblemished mark. But they had only four hits and didn&8217;t make much noise after getting a three-run jack in the first from Blake Jones and run in the second to take a quick 4-0 lead.

&8220;We didn&8217;t play with intensity today,&8221; Caldwell head coach Wayne Johnson said. &8220;We&8217;ve had a good year. This is the first district championship these seniors have ever won, and I thought we&8217;d have more intensity. We didn&8217;t throw our good pitchers, but that&8217;s no excuse. Vidalia has a good team, and Johnny has done a great job with them. We just didn&8217;t play well today. It&8217;s not indicative of our ball club.&8221;

The Vikings, meanwhile, got the key hits at the plate at times to climb out of that 4-0 deficit for the lead in the fourth. Jordan Brewer scored the tying run after he reached on an error and came around on another error, and Trey Keith singled in Will Thomas for the 5-4 lead.

In the third Thomas hit a solo homer and Shayne Knapp delivered a two-out single down the line in left that scored Tyler Bruce and Keith.

&8220;We had a good practice yesterday hitting,&8221; Brewer said. &8220;Coach did a lot of live-arm pitching, and everybody is hitting the ball better. (Everybody was) not paying attention to what they were doing, getting ahead of themselves and trying too hard at what they were doing.&8221;

The Vikings still left nine runners on base and had a chance to score in their last at-bat when they put runners on first and second but came up empty when reliever Jeff Lenard got a strikeout to end the game.

And an error in the seventh and another in the second were ones the Vikings would have loved to have back.

&8220;Defense has been our Achilles heel all year,&8221; Hoffpauir said. &8220;We hope going into the playoffs we can play the routine defense, our bats come on line and we get steady pitching to give ourselves a chance to win.&8221;