With the school prom on Friday night, the Fitzgerald baseball team was ready to play the morning rubber game with Cross Creek and get out of town immediately.
The Razorbacks gave the Purple Hurricanes a going-away present.
A day after committing eight errors in the first two games of the Georgia Class AAA opening-round playoff series, Cross Creek flubbed three more in the deciding contest - including a sixth-inning error by third baseman Shawn Page that led to the eventual winning run - and Fitzgerald got away with a 3-2 win to take the series.
"All the players' mamas were mad, because they wanted to get back for the prom," Purple Hurricanes coach Sammy Reynolds said before the team embarked on a four-hour bus trip. "But we didn't worry about that very much. We wanted to get the game over with, but we knew we came up here to play baseball. That's what we agreed on."
The agreement worked out for Fitzgerald (11-14), which won Game 1 of the series, 9-8, on Thursday before allowing the Razorbacks to come back in the second contest and prevail 9-8.
Although Purple Hurricanes starter Brian Reese gave up a two-run home run to Cross Creek first baseman John Kielholtz in the third inning, he settled down, scattering six hits for Friday's complete-game win.
He was matched by Razorback starter Daniel Forbes, who made just his second start of the season and gave up only two earned runs on four hits.
"Forbes really came on strong at the end of the year," Cross Creek coach David Hollingsworth said. "He throws a lot of strikes. That's what we like about him.
Unfortunately for the Razorbacks (19-9), the defense couldn't back him up. After an RBI double by Fitzgerald right fielder Dan Hobby in the bottom of the fifth inning tied the game at 2, the sun got in Page's eyes on a Kevious Johnson pop-fly in the sixth, allowing Brent Cleghorn to score the winning run.
"Defense has been the story for us," Hollingsworth said. "The last one (by Page) was a beast for him. He just lost it too late in the flight of the ball. I feel real bad for him because he's a senior, but that's life I guess."
The Razorbacks had their chances to knot the score in the top of the seventh, but Ryan McCook was thrown out at third on a Forbes single, and John Kielholtz flied out to first to end the game and Cross Creek's season.
"I can't fault my kids," Hollingsworth said. "They played hard the whole time. Sometimes, the ball just doesn't bounce your way."
Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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