Rams blitz Bulldogs in state tournament opener
Experience counts. The Cornersville Bulldogs' first ever State tournament game ended up being a baptism by fire, as CHS lost 13-5 to the Grace Christian Academy Rams in the opening round on Tuesday night at Riverdale High School.
Having reached the State tournament each of the last two years, GCA seemed better acclimated to the bright lights of the Spring Fling and forged a 13-2 lead through the first two and half innings of play.
The Bulldogs eventually gained their bearings and held the Rams scoreless the rest of the way, but tallied only three runs during that span en route to falling into the loser's bracket.
Swarm of hits
Due to Tuesday's setback, Cornersville has to turnaround and play Scotts Hill in the first round of the loser's bracket on Wednesday morning.
Bolstered by their early onslaught, GCA pounded out 14 hits against three Bulldog pitchers to go along with three walks and three Cornersville errors.
"We never stopped playing the game and the kids competed until the end. We just ran into a good team and we didn't play perfect. When you get up here, there are no bad teams," said CHS coach Ben Putman. "We don't have much time until our next game so we've got to let this one go and stay alive tomorrow."
Leadoff hitter Bryson Shelton helped spark the Rams' offense by going 4-for-5 with a double, 2 RBI, and a run scored, while starting pitcher Josh Liford added a three-run homer. Matt Cunningham (1 RBI) also tallied three hits for GCA, and Chandler Adkins (1 RBI) and Kaleb Savage (1 RBI) each had two hits.
On the mound
Bulldog starting pitcher Cody Blackburn suffered the loss after allowing five runs in one inning on five hits and a walk. Reliever Jody Sullivan was the most effective of Cornersville's pitchers and yielded just one unearned run over five and a third innings on five hits and a walk to go along with two strikeouts.
The Bulldogs finished with only six hits and four walks against Liford, who went the distance on the mound to earn the victory. Jacob Griffis recorded a double and 2 RBI to account for Cornersville's lone extra base hit of the game, while Matt Callender (2 RBI), Neil Davis (1 RBI), Tyler Lowery, Tate Lowery, and Blackburn all singled.
The Rams got their bats going early and jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the top of the first inning on the strength of a RBI single by Chase Newsome, a David Stallworth RBI fielder's choice, and a three-run homer by Liford.
CHS mounted an immediate response and pushed across two runs in the bottom of the first to narrow the gap to 5-2. After the Bulldogs loaded the bases with one out on a Tyler Lowery single and a pair of walks from Tate Lowery and Neil Davis, Tyler Lowery and Tate Lowery both managed to score on a fielder's choice by Callender thanks to some aggressive base running.
Grace Christian, however, hit the Bulldogs with another haymaker in the top of the second and crossed home plate seven more times in the frame with the help of a Cunningham RBI single, a Bulldog error, a RBI single by Savage, a Shelton two-run double, and a RBI single by Adkins to forge a 12-2 advantage.
The Rams then notched a run in the top of the third on a Walker RBI single to stretch their lead to 13-2 before Cornersville crossed home plate three times in the bottom half of the frame behind a pair of singles from Tate Lowery and Blackburn, a Davis RBI groundout, an infield single by Callender, a Zach Richards walk, and a two-run double by Griffis to trim the deficit to 13-5.
After working around a leadoff single by Davis and a hit batsman in the bottom of the fifth with the help of a 4-6-3 double play, Liford retired the Bulldogs in order over the final two innings to wrap up the win for GCA.