MARIETTA, Ga. — Things didn’t start out well for Pope in its decisive game of a best-of-three Class AAAAA state quarterfinal playoff series against Evans on Wednesday.
The Knights scored in the first and second innings, while starter David Rivera limited the Greyhounds to two singles and two scoreless innings in taking an early 2-0 lead.
But, things changed in a hurry.
Pope rallied for 12 unanswered runs, capped by Brett Lyle’s two-out, two-run walk-off home run in the fifth, and bullied its way to a 12-2 run-rule victory over Evans.
The Knights scored their first two runs with two outs.
Matt Anderson induced a two-out walk in the first inning and scored on RaeKwon’s Bennett’s single. Brice Harrison singled in the second and scored on Garrett Wilkinson’s two-out double for the Knights’ 2-0 advantage.
Rivera, who allowed three earned runs off five hits and struck out five in 21/3 innings, began to lose his touch in the third. He gave up a lead-off double to Patrick Wiseman, walked Nathaniel Lowe and gave up back-to-back one-out singles to Johnny Flading and Smith. His wild pitch scored Wiseman, and Smith’s single also produced runs, knotting at 2-all.
Culbertson’s two-out RBI single off reliever Tyler Roberts made it 3-2 Pope.
Ten batters came to the plate in the fourth as the Greyhounds scored five runs.
Stephen Skruck’s double plated Mason Shiflett and Wiseman. Wes Smith’s sacrifice fly to center scored courtesy runner Harrison Siegal, who was in for Lowe, and Skruck came home during Lyle’s at-bat when he reached on an error. Jacob Culberton’s RBI single that scored Lyle resulted in the final run of the frame.
Pope continued its assault with a four-run fifth. Lowe reached on a one-out error and Skruck walked in the next at-bat. Siegal, who scored three times for Lowe, and Skruck scored on Smith’s two-out single through the middle for 10-2 Greyhounds margin. Lyle ended the contest with a two-run shot a few feet from the left field foul pole that plated courtesy runner Logan Taylor.
“We definitely got the momentum going,” Rowland said. “We put pressure behind each ball thrown and when you put it in play, you make things happen.”
Roberts gave up nine runs — two earned — on seven hits in 21/3 innings for Evans. Anderson was 2 for 2 with two doubles and a walk.
Lowe earned the win for Pope after allowing two earned runs on six hits while striking out two in five innings.
“We knew we’d have to score seven or eight runs to win,” Evans coach Ricky Beale said. “We made mistakes and they hurt us with them. You can’t give a good team those kind of opportunities.”