However, the Charger offense showed resiliency in the second game and won by a score of 9-2 to split the four-game series and remain within striking distance of the sixth and final playoff spot in the GCAA.
“That’s just one of those games you tip your cap to [East Georgia pitcher Phillip Anderson]. He just outpitched us and they outplayed us,” Georgia Highlands head coach Mike Marra said of the first game Saturday. “What was nice was the second game. We came storming back with two runs in the first and a big six-run inning in the third. It was good they didn’t hang their head and came out battling the second game, and ended up splitting the series. We’ll take some solace in that.”
In the first game Saturday, Anderson pitched a complete game two-hitter. At one point, he struck out four consecutive Georgia Highlands batters and finished with 10 strikeouts in the game.
“He loves to throw that slider,” Marra said of Anderson. “The big question was going to be if he could throw it for a strike, because otherwise, we could just play off it. But he had good command with it and that was his out pitch all day.”
Despite Anderson’s performance, GHC did score a run off of him in the first inning without recording a hit. Former Woodland High player Camden McGill led off the game with a walk. He advanced to second base when Khari Anderson was hit by a pitch. McGill would then move to third on a wild pitch before scoring on Andy Mocahbee’s sacrifice fly to left field.
“We didn’t have a ton of opportunities, but we had a couple early,” Marra said. “Whenever you have a good pitcher, you try to get to him early, if you can, and we just got that one run in the first.
“We had a chance to maybe get a little bit more.”
East Georgia’s offense did not do much better against GHC starting pitcher Parker Acuff. Acuff went 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on just three hits.
East Georgia scored one run in each the fourth and the sixth innings, but worked through some trouble to give the Chargers an extra few outs.
In the fifth inning, Acuff recorded two quick outs. However, a single, a walk and a hit batsman later, the bases were loaded with two outs. Marra took a trip to the mound to check on his pitcher and Acuff responded by striking out the next batter he faced to end the threat.
“Parker got into a little trouble. When I went out and talked to him, I said, ‘Listen, we got a lefty coming up.’ We had two hits. I said, ‘We need this out,” Marra recalled. “And, of course, he got the strikeout. So he did a good job. We just couldn’t produce any runs for him.”
The Chargers had no such problem in the second game as they scored nine runs in the first three innings.
McGill and Anderson led off the bottom of the first with two consecutive singles. Mocahbee was then hit by a pitch before Gavin Peters hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score the first run of the game.
Second baseman Blake Oxenreider followed with an RBI single to drive in another run in the inning.
GHC would add a third run in the second when Chap Lindstrom singled to score McGill.
“We kept swinging,” Marra said. “We jumped right on them, which was good. We didn’t get discouraged by the loss.”
The floodgates would then open in the third inning. Two errors and two singles by Peters and Oxenreider scored a run and set the stage for Cartersville alum Ty Fowler. Fowler drove in another run with a single and McGill followed with one of his own. Anderson and Lindstrom then walked, and before the inning was over, GHC had posted a six-spot and took a 9-0 lead.
The nine-run lead was more than enough for Mikhail Cazenave, who pitched all seven innings, allowed two runs and struck out seven.
Cazenave was thrust into the starting rotation after injuries to sophomores Dillon Swaggerty and Jamie Thaggard left the pitching staff thin and without an active sophomore pitcher on the roster.
“[Cazenave] was very economical, 105 pitches in seven innings. That’s what we’re going to need,” Marra said. “[Albert] Harless pitched well Friday, and Mikhail and Parker, we had three great starts from our starting pitchers this week. We came up 2-2, but we had some good innings, so I was pleased. Just the first game today, we ran into a buzzsaw.”
At the plate, McGill went 3-for-4 in the second game with three runs scored.
GHC now moves to 9-15 in conference play and 15-26 overall. The Chargers face first-place Georgia Perimeter and Cass alum Dylan Williams in a four-game series next week.