By Jeffery Armstrong
What a difference a day makes for the Mt. Zion Bulldogs baseball team.
Twenty-four hours after upsetting the Henry County Warhawks 18-7 via the 10-run mercy rule, the Bulldogs got run-ruled themselves. The Eagle's Landing Golden Eagles came to town and hammered the Bulldogs 23-8 Thursday evening in a Region 2-AAAAA game that was called after five innings.
The loss puts Mt. Zion (8-12, 5-7) on extremely thin ice in regards to a state playoff berth. The Bulldogs are now tied with Northside for sixth place in the region standings while Eagle's Landing (10-9, 6-6) takes sole possession of fifth place, one game behind fourth-place Stockbridge. The top four teams in the region qualify for the state playoffs.
"Our problem all year is that we haven't made the clutch plays," said Mt. Zion head coach Bruce Jones, visibly disappointed. "We had chances to win this game, but we didn't make the plays we needed to make."
This game was a make-up for an earlier rainout. Jones probably wished it would've rained Thursday if it meant not seeing his team get smashed by Eagle's Landing. Bulldogs starter Brian Rice allowed only three Eagles runs in the first three innings and his teammates staked him to a 5-3 lead off Eagles starting pitcher B.K. Short. Rice even helped himself at the plate, going 2-for-3 with two runs scored after three innings.
The top of the fourth inning was where it came apart for Mt. Zion. Rice got Eagles designated hitter Bradley Carden to ground out, but he lost control after that. Rice gave up two straight hits and three straight walks to tie the game at five. Rice was then replaced on the mound by Travis Beasley.
With the bases loaded, Eagles right fielder Marcel Fearon then hit what looked like a sure double play ball to Bulldogs second baseman Caleb Lester. Lester booted it for a two-run error and that allowed the floodgates to open.
Beasley walked a batter, gave up six straight hits and two more walks for a 15-5 Eagle's Landing lead. Freshman Andre Dixon relieved Beasley and he promptly gave up an RBI single to Fearon, who batted for the second time in the inning, for a 16-5 lead. A groundout and a strikeout mercifully ended the inning for Mt. Zion.
The Bulldogs showed some toughness by battling back in the bottom of the fourth off Eagles reliever Richard Bergmann. Chris Coggins led off with a single and after a flyout, Dusty White, Cannady Walker, Trey Robinson and Myron Gates singled. Robinson and Gates' singles scored two runs and David Nemeth's fielder's choice led to the last run for Mt. Zion, making the score 16-8.
The Eagles were determined to finish off the Bulldogs, batting around again in the top of the fifth. The big blow in the seven-run inning was a three-run triple by Eagles catcher Tommy Griffiths.
Eagle's Landing belted 16 hits and each Eagles starter had at least two runs scored and one RBI. Mt. Zion pitchers walked 14 batters and only struck out one.
Mt. Zion had 11 hits with Rice, Coggins, White and Walker getting two or more.