The Cass Colonels picked up their third straight win to start their region schedule—and did it in particularly satisfying fashion.
The Colonels scored six runs in the third and held on to beat county rival Woodland, 8-5, at home on Friday.
“This was crosstown rivalry, Bartow County baseball at its best,” Cass coach Adam Williams said. “That was a good game versus a good team and I’m proud that we pulled out the W.”
Evan Hinton hit a grand slam from the No. 8 spot in the lineup to cap Cass’ monster third inning, and came in to get a big out to end the sixth inning with the bases loaded and Woodland trailing by just three.
The Colonels started fast. Cass starter Zach Yancey struck out two in a scoreless top of the first, and Clay Means doubled over the center fielder’s head to lead off the bottom of the inning.
Bailey Campbell followed with a shot to almost the same place, putting Cass ahead 1-0 just two batters into the game.
“We came out and kind of just played our game,” Williams said. “We were able to work the count and get pitches to hit and we took advantage.”
Woodland starter Cauy Williams settled down with three straight flyouts to escape the inning after that, but Woodland stranded two runners on base in both the second and the third, and Williams couldn’t stop the bleeding in the bottom of the third.
Means walked to lead off for Cass and, after he moved up to second on a wild pitch, Coursey called for an intentional walk to Campbell.
Jake Collum tried to lay down a sac bunt, but Williams fielded it quickly and went to third base to gun down the lead runner.
That gave the Wildcats one out, but Steven Spell singled and Cody Johnson walked to force in the first run of the inning.
Williams again came close to escaping by striking out Cody Johnson, but Yancey hit a high-bouncing ball to shortstop that Woodland’s Jordan Lee couldn’t handle—and may not have had a play at first base on anyway.
That scored another run and brought up Hinton, who didn’t miss his chance with the bases loaded.
The left fielder went down 1-2 against Williams before fighting off a few close pitches and hitting a ball to right-center that just kept carrying and carrying, eventually landing over the fence for a grand slam and a 6-0 lead.
“Any of these kids can get one out at any time,” Williams said. “That at bat right there was a lot more than a grand slam. He had two strikes, fouled a pitch off ... and then he got a pitch to hit. That’s what we want.”
Williams finally ended the inning by striking out Nathan Smith, but the damage was done, with six runs scoring on just two hits.
“When Cauy’s on and hits his spots, he can definitely take over the game,” Woodland coach Colby Coursey said. “It wasn’t his sharpest game and the locations we missed were in locations that they took advantage of.”
The Woodland starter would be chased in the next inning, with Means providing the impetus from the leadoff spot again.
He singled to lead off. Williams would be removed with a 1-1 count on Campbell, the next hitter, when he threw a pickoff attempt past Trent Harrison at first base, allowing Means to get all the way around to third.
Grayson Bagwell relieved and gave up a sac fly to Campbell to make it 8-0, but would actually retire all nine hitters he faced through the fourth, fifth and sixth to keep Woodland in the game.
The Wildcats would take advantage, starting their comeback in the fifth.
Toby Queen walked with one out and Jordan Lee took his place on first after a fielder’s choice, with Queen out at second.
With two outs, though, Garrett Cornett singled and Hunter Reaid was hit by a pitch.
That brought up second baseman Jacob Frye, who smashed a double over the center fielder’s head on a 2-2 pitch. All three runners scored, giving Woodland some life.
“I loved the way that they were never out of it, even down eight runs and going to the fifth,” Coursey said. “We still battled, got it within five. That’s positive to see.”
They kept up the onslaught in the next inning.
Koby Stansel doubled with one out, and Harrison followed by mashing a first-pitch home run deep over the left-field fence. It was his third dinger of the season.
Yancey stayed in for the Colonels, trying to hold onto an 8-5 lead, but his defense wouldn’t make it easy.
Shortstop Jake Collum threw away a routine ground ball from Queen, and then couldn’t make the throw on the back end of a double play on the very next batter.
Yancey, who could have been out of the inning, then hit Cornett and was taken out with two outs and runners on first and second.
Hinton was called in from left field and immediately walked Reaid on four straight pitches, loading the bases.
But with a full count on fifth-inning hero Frye, he got a weak comebacker to the mound, throwing onto first to end the inning and the threat.
“We had a chance there to have the runners moving too,” Coursey said. “He just missed the barrel of the bat a little bit ... and the pitcher made a very good play on the ball.”
Cass went quietly once more in the bottom of the sixth, but it wasn’t to matter as Collum worked a scoreless seventh in relief of Hinton for the save.
Williams and Stansel each had singles against the Colonel ace in the inning, putting runners on first and second with one out, but he struck out the other three hitters he faced to lock down the win.
“When you turn your ball over to your senior, Jake Collum, you feel good about the game,” Williams said. “Jake just went out there and shut the door like Jake’s supposed to.”
Hinton was 2-for-3 with four RBIs for Cass, while Campbell recorded just one official at bat but finished 1-for-1 with two RBIs.
Means had two hits and a walk at the top of the lineup and scored twice.
With two wins over Hiram on Wednesday and Thursday, the Colonels are sitting at 3-0 in region early on.
“I feel good, but what’s in the past is in the past,” Williams said. “We’ll enjoy this one for 24 hours and then we’ll get right back to work.”
For Woodland, Stansel had three hits, while Frye had three RBIs and Harrison two.
Bagwell faced and retired nine hitters in relief of Williams, striking out three.
The two teams will get a chance at an instant rematch Monday when they play at Woodland.