Dogs one win away from finals

Published 12:16 am Saturday, May 3, 2008

BUDE — It’s been 22-years since Franklin County last played for a South State Championship on the diamond. After Friday night, they are one game away from ending that streak and going back.

Led by a air-tight defense and some timely hitting by seniors Ryne Tutor, Ben McDowell, and Blaine Abernathy the Diamond Dawgs pulled off a remarkable 3-0 shutout of defending South State 3A champion Sumrall Friday night in ‘The Swamp’ to take Game 1 of the Best-of-3, third round series.

Game 2 is scheduled for today at Sumrall.

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“We’ve just got to win one more,” said a happy Diamond Dogs coach Jeremy Loy after the game. “We’ve been playing good baseball all season and now we’re one game away from South State.”

Franklin County senior southpaw pitcher Ben McDowell proved to be the thorn in Sumrall’s foot all night long with a crafty blend of fastball, change-ups, and curves to keep the Bobcats guessing. McDowell struck out four in going the distance for his eighth win and fifth shutout of the season.

“I just did what I had to do to,” said McDowell following the game. “We heard so much about Sumrall before the game, so we knew they were good. But we also knew they could be beat.”

The loss, Sumrall’s first defeat by shutout this season was by no means easy. The Bobcats mounted a late seventh inning rally, loading the bases with one out, before McDowell finished off the final two batters with a strikeout and a pop-up for the final out, that senior shortstop Ryne Tutor collected in his glove.

“That last pitch I threw was a two-seam fastball,” said the 6-2, 165-pound McDowell recounting the final out. “I threw it as hard as I could, so he would pop it up.”

McDowell (8-2) threw 110 pitches on the night, walking only three batters and picking off two of them with a devilish pick-off move to first that kept Sumrall in check the entire game.

FC sophomore second baseman Hunter Hatcher and sophomore third baseman Colton Laird provided some defensive stops themselves. Hatcher turned an unassisted fifth inning double play to get the Dawgs out of a jam, while Laird made three stops at third. Senior first baseman Blaine Abernathy collected the scoops.

“We were top of our game tonight,” said Hatcher. “Our defense has been making big plays all year. That’s what it takes, especially in the playoffs.”

The Bulldogs (24-5) scored two runs in the bottom of the first to take control of the game. Blaine Abernathy belted a single, and Ryne Tutor a double, before junior Jordan Hunt scored Abernathy from third off a sacrifice fly. McDowell would next knock Tutor in, and the FC had the lead.

Bobcats pitcher Jim Roseberry was saddled with the loss, despite striking out four. He walked four and gave up two earned runs in five innings pitched for Sumrall (26-6).

“I’m proud of my guys,” said Loy. “We’re playing our hardest and leaving everything on the field.”