November 26, 2020

Braves sweep Dragons to land in Sweet 16

(Franklin, GA) — The Braves swept the visiting Pepperell Dragons at Alford Field Friday to earn a spot in next week’s GHSA Class AA Sweet 16 for the third straight season.

The scoreboard was identical in both wins as the Braves edged the Dragons by a 4-3 final in each contest and as the score would indicate neither came easy — especially a nightcap which required a late come-from-behind rally and extra frames to get the job done.

The Braves (20-10) will now travel to Bleckley County (23-7) Thursday in hopes of equaling an Elite 8 run from the last two seasons.

Brave pitching was the key to the round one series Friday as both starters pitched well and logged a lot of innings.

In game one it was Auston Wilson who grabbed his team high eighth win of the season after a solid performance. Wilson allowed no earned runs scattered eight hits over six innings with no walks.

Senior Logan Ward recorded the save in both wins Friday in Franklin (Photo: Gary Jones)

Senior Logan Ward recorded the save in both wins Friday in Franklin (Photo: Gary Jones)

Wilson lowered his outstanding ERA to just 2.27 for the year. He helped himself at the plate driving home a run with a second inning single.

Senior Logan Ward came on to shut the door in the seventh to earn the save.

Junior Bryan Jones drove home the go ahead and eventual game winning run with a base hit in the bottom of the fifth.

Ethan Brant was the other big stick in the game one going 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and two RBI’s.

In game two it was senior Lee Kay turning in one of his best starting pitching efforts of the season that kept the Braves in the game.

Kay went 6.2 innings and allowed just two earned runs while striking out seven.

The Braves trailed for most of the game as the visiting team before rallying from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game in the top of the sixth.

The key hit in the rally came off the bat of Tanner Collins on a two-out double that brought home Kay and Brant. Collins was 2-for-3 in the nightcap while Wilson and shortstop Dale Thornhill also had multiple hit efforts.

Collins would score the game winning run in the top of the ninth after drawing a walk and moving into scoring position on an important sacrifice bunt by Jones before scoring on a single to center from Wilson.

Ward again came on and struck out the side to earn his second save of the night and the Braves second 4-3 win of the day. A.J. Head got the win in the nightcap after shutting the door on the Dragons for 1.1 innings in relief.

Coach Trent Bianco was pleased to see his team gut out two hard-fought wins over a well-coached and fundamentally sound Dragon squad.

“Hats off to Pepperell and Coach Montgomery today he does an excellent job and they are a well-coached team. Proud of our guys for gutting it out — it’s not about style points in the playoffs,” said Bianco after the round one sweep.

Bianco was especially pleased to see such a total team effort with numerous people contributing in one way or another.

“After they grabbed momentum in the second game our guys just stuck with it. That’s about as gutsy of a performance as I’ve seen from Lee Kay in four years. We talk about the little things and in game two it was Tanner drawing the walk and Jones putting down the perfect sacrifice and Wilson bringing that big run home. Then to see Logan come in and shut the door after catching two games — that was just big for us — I am proud of all our guys tonight.”

The Braves will travel to Cochran, GA this Thursday to face the Bleckley County Royals, the No. 1 seed from Region 3-AA in round two. The teams will square off in a doubleheader on day one with a possible “if” game scheduled for Friday.

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