By Jeffery Armstrong
The race for a berth in the state playoffs in Region 2-AAAAA has tightened a bit thanks to Brandon Stewart and the Riverdale Raiders baseball team.
Stewart pitched a complete-game one-hitter and the Raiders dodged two bases loaded situations in the late innings to defeat the Morrow Mustangs 5-0 Wednesday night at Morrow High. Stewart had a no-hitter through five innings - he struck out seven Mustangs but also walked eight.
"I felt good today, better than my last few starts because my arm feels better," said Stewart. "As a team, we're focused on getting to state."
With the win, Riverdale inches closer to fourth place in Region 2-AAAAA, improving to 8-13, 4-5 in the region standings. The Raiders have five more region contests. Morrow has dropped its third consecutive game, falling from first place in the region to third place with a 7-4 region slate; they have three more region games to play.
Lithonia is first in the region at 8-0 and Redan is second at 7-3. Newton County, who hosts Morrow on Friday, is currently fourth with a 6-5 record.
T.J. Griggs was the hard-luck loser for Morrow; he pitched a strong seven innings, allowing five runs (two earned) on nine hits. He struck out three and walked two.
Riverdale started the scoring in the second inning. First baseman Trey Hooks walked and stole second and came around to score on a single by Stewart for a 1-0 lead. Griggs and Stewart each held the other's team down for the next few innings before Riverdale scored again. Morrow had a shot to score in the fifth off Stewart. The Raiders' junior hurler walked the bases loaded with two outs, but he got Morrow second baseman Troy Thomas to pop up to second to end the threat.
Riverdale made Morrow pay after that. Raiders shortstop Alex Johnson singled and moved to second on Kurt Wilson's sacrifice. A Hooks groundout advanced Johnson to third and on a 3-2 count to E.J. Flen, Johnson stole home for a 2-0 Riverdale lead.
"That was the play that took them out the game, I believe," said Johnson, who went 3-for-4 in the contest with two runs scored and two RBIs. "I've been killing the ball lately and that's helping us to win. I think we'll go all the way to state this year."
Morrow again loaded the bases in the sixth, thanks to two more Stewart walks. But Stewart got Mustangs left-fielder Tyrone Johnson to hit a pitch right to him and he flipped it to first for the third out.
Riverdale added three more runs in the seventh, with the big blow coming on Johnson's two-run triple with two outs. Wilson singled home Johnson for the 5-0 final score.
Chad Morgan went 2-for-3 for Riverdale. Morrow senior shortstop Terrel Baker got the only hit for the Mustangs.
"We're not playing as hard lately as we had earlier when we were 7-1," said Morrow head coach Chris Jefferys. "We've had a lack of hustle and effort. We've got to take care of business in these next three games."
Forest Park 9, Cedar Grove 4: It's highly likely that Forest Park's Michael Oliver will never forget April 27, 2005.
Oliver, a freshman, pitched in his first varsity game Wednesday and helped his team to a 9-4 victory over Cedar Grove. Oliver pitched a complete game, striking out four while walking just one batter.
"I was extremely proud of him," Forest Park head coach Mike Breedlove said.
Forest Park improves to 13-5 overall and 10-1 in sub-region play.
"We're doing good," Breedlove said. "We've got a lot of younger kids who are stepping up.
In Wednesday's game, some standouts at the plate were Antonio Kendrick with one RBI; Cody Garner, who went 1-for-3 with an RBI; Isaiah Froneberger, who went 2-for-2 with a stolen base; Greg Ramsey, who went 2-for-4 with a stolen base, Tony Peaks, who went 1-for-2 and Tyrone Standford with one RBI.
Mundy's Mill 7, Union Grove 5: Mundy's Mill picked up its first Region 4-AAAAA victory Wednesday by beating Union Grove.
Mundy's Mill also got its fifth win of the season, the most in school history.
Sam Murphy struck out two in 5 2/3 innings and Conradery White got the save. White also went 2-for-2 with two runs.
Other standouts were Jarius Brown (2-for-3, a home run with two RBIs) and Mandela Jones (2-for-2 with two RBIs).
Mundy's Mill hosts Lovejoy in a region game Friday.