By Jeffery Armstrong
The regular season is over for Region 2-AAAAA baseball teams and it was a season to remember.
The 2004 season in this region will be forever known as the "mercy rule year." The mercy rule in baseball is when one team defeats another team by 15 runs after three innings or 10 runs after five innings.
Nearly every local baseball team in this region has either mercy-ruled an opponent or been mercy-ruled themselves. Even region leader Henry County has been the victim of the mercy rule. Two of Henry County's three losses were by 10 or more runs: a 19-9 loss to Stockbridge and an 18-7 loss to Mt. Zion.
Stockbridge's 19-9 defeat of Henry County came eight days after getting run-ruled by the Luella Lions, 15-4. The good feeling Mt. Zion's players had after their 18-7 victory over Henry was tempered by the 23-8 shellacking they received at home from Eagle's Landing one day later.
Speaking of Eagle's Landing, the Golden Eagles (15-10, 11-7) finished one game behind the Tigers of Stockbridge to finish fifth in the region. Despite going 8-1 in its last nine games (including an eight-game win streak), the Eagles missed the playoffs due to their 10-6 loss at Stockbridge Wednesday. The Eagles' 7-5 loss to Stockbridge at home on April 14 was a big game. The Eagles had a 5-3 lead over the Tigers after four innings in that first meeting and just needed to hold on for a win. Had the Eagles won, Wednesday's loss would've meant a split in the series and probably forced some tiebreaker scenarios. Here's a look at how the three playoff teams from the Southern Crescent fared this season (Houston County is the region's second seed):
Henry County (23-3, 15-3, 1st seed). The Warhawks won their first nine games before the blowout loss to Stockbridge. Henry stayed consistent, winning the next nine games before another blowout loss, this time to Mt. Zion. The Warhawks then won five of their last six games to clinch the region title. Both senior Warhawks pitchers Michael Rozier and Jason Laird went undefeated on the year.
Stockbridge (15-11, 12-6, 3rd seed). The Tigers' overall record wasn't great at the start, but they did sprint to a 4-0 region record with a come-from-behind 5-4 victory in eight innings over Morrow on March 29. The Tigers lost their next four region games before beating Eagle's Landing 7-5, which turned out to be a key game. The Tigers were trailing 5-3 before scoring four runs on two wild pitches, a walk and an error. The other key games included the 4-3 extra-inning victory over Jonesboro April 29 and Wednesday night's win over Eagle's Landing, which clinched a state berth.
Jonesboro (17-9, 12-6, 4th seed). The Cardinals won their first seven region games and had Henry County down 3-0 in the first meeting between the two teams. But Henry rallied to win the game 7-6 and the Cardinals couldn't shake Henry from the top spot. On April 28, Jonesboro and Henry shared first place with a 12-3 region record. Jonesboro went into a tailspin, however, losing its final three games starting with the 4-3, eight-inning loss at Stockbridge. Henry won its next three games, including a May 3 defeat of Jonesboro. Stockbridge beat Henry once but Jonesboro was swept by Henry, so the Cardinals lost the tiebreaker to Stockbridge and fell to the fourth seed.