By Doug Gorman
The Henry County Warhawks and the Lowdnes Vikings each face a must-win situation this afternoon in the first round of the Class AAAAA baseball tournament in McDonough.
Henry County and Lowdnes split a doubleheader in the best-of-three series Friday night with the Warhawks winning the first game 1-0 and the Vikings tying the series at a game each with a 9-3 decision in the nightcap.
The final game of the series is today at 1 p.m. back at Henry County.
Henry County 1, Lowdnes 0 (game one): Henry County pitcher Michael Rozier, who missed most of his starts during the regular season after suffering an arm injury, appears back in form now that the Warhawks are in the state playoffs.
In the first contest of the best -of- three series, Rozier went the distance, striking out nine and turning in the shutout in his first complete game of the year.
"We kept asking him how he felt and he wanted to stay in there," said Henry County coach Chuck Campbell. "It was a good outing for him. It was great to see him get the complete game."
Rozier, who hit over .400 at the plate this season while playing mostly at first base, helped his own cause in the playoff opener, knocking in the Warhawks' only run of the game in the bottom of the first.
Rozier's two-out single scored Lane Hammond who reached with a double.
The Warhawks had plenty of other chances to score in the game, but left nine runners on base through seven innings.
"We hit the ball right at people, we just couldn't get anything to drop," said Campbell.
Lowndes' best chance to rally came in the sixth inning when Brandon Ponder reached on a single to begin the inning. Bowen Corbett kept the rally alive when he was hit by a pitch with nobody out. Two batters later, Blake Bonner then stepped to the plate with one out and reached on a single to load the base. From that point, Rozier and the Warhawks buckled down, recording the final two outs of the inning, including one when the Henry County pitcher struck out Jim Letourneau.
In the seventh, Henry County retired the Vikings in order.
Lowndes 9, Henry County 3: The Vikings scored a run in the first and Warhawks one in the second to keep things tight early in the second game.
However, when Lowndes exploded for seven runs in the bottom of the second (Lowdnes was the home team in the second game), it was pretty clear the series was headed to Saturday.
Lowndes chased starting pitcher Greg Lindsey from the mound in the second by forcing six walks and batting around.
Lindsey stayed in the game for offensive purposes after being removed from the mound and it paid off as he ripped a two-run homer to cut the score to 8-3.
It was the final run of the game for Henry County.
Lowndes added its final run of the second game in the sixth.
"We feel good about things in terms of our pitching staff," said Campbell. "We still have Matt Brown and Matt Clark available."