In dramatic fashion, the Thomson High Bulldogs took over first place in Region 3-AAA baseball standings with a 4-2 victory over the visiting West Laurens Raiders at the Thomson field last Saturday afternoon.
Thomson pitcher Abram Cartledge aided his own cause when he blasted a two-run homer over the right center field fence in the bottom of the sixth to break a 2-2 tie. It marked the Bulldogs' eighth win in their last 10 games.
On Monday, Thomson was scheduled to have played the Screven County Gamecocks in Sylvania and will travel to Waynesboro to play the Burke County Bears on Friday. The Bulldogs return home for a key region game against the Baldwin Braves on Saturday. Game time is set for 1 p.m.
"I knew the ball was gone when their center fielder went back to the fence," the southpaw pitching star said after the game. "It felt great hitting that homerun."
Jesse Usry, who went into the game as a pinch runner just before Cartledge hit the ball out of the park, was as excited about the big homer as his sophomore teammate.
"I had chills down my spine when he hit that homerun," Usry said. Prior to going into the game, Usry had been the team's big bench leader, chanting and getting the Thomson team as fired up about the big game as he could.
Thomson Head Coach Terry Holder was pleased with his team's overall performance.
"Abe did another fine job pitching and our bats came through when we needed them," Coach Holder said. "I was also real proud of our defense. We played an awfully good defensive game. I believe our infield is getting as good as our outfield in terms of defense."
Coach Holder agreed that his team seemed pumped for the big game against West Laurens, who had occupied first place in the region standings before the Thomson win.
"We seemed real relaxed and we swung the bats well," Coach Holder said. "We also did a lot of the little things well. And that's what it takes to win big ball games."
The Bulldogs sit at the top of the region standings by virtue of having lost one game less than West Laurens. Thomson has lost two region games, while the Raiders have lost three games.
"Right now, we control our own destiny," Coach Holder said. "It's a nice position to be in, but we can't take anything for granted here on out."
Zack Washington, the senior second baseman for the Bulldogs, who made several fine defensive plays in the West Laurens game, is about as thrilled as can be that his team finds itself in first place in the region standings.
"It feels great," Washington said. "All the hard work is paying off."
West Laurens scored their only two runs of the game in the top of the second inning.
Third baseman Tate King tagged Cartledge for a triple into the right field corner with one out to place the Raiders in scoring position. The hit was just out of the reach of Thomson senior first baseman Will Anderson, who dove to his left in an attempt to make a play. Eason Spivey then reached base after getting hit by an errant pitch. Both runners eventually scored.
Thomson didn't push across a run until the bottom of the fourth when sophomore starting right fielder Phillip Anderson hit a lead-off solo-homer over the center field fence to make it a 2-1 game. In the bottom of the fifth, the Bulldogs tied the score at 2-2. Washington got hit by a pitch from West Laurens' Rodney O'Neal and later raced home on a RBI single by junior third baseman Cody Ewest, who had two hits in that game and whose bat has gotten red-hot of late.
The Bulldogs managed to get the runs necessary to win the game when freshman designated hitter Andy Grimaud walked and Usry went into the game to run for him. Cartledge then stepped up to face O'Neal for the third time. Cartledge drove the first pitch out of the park - a game winning homer.
Cartledge also did another fine job as the starter pitcher. He allowed just two runs on four hits. He also struck out seven batters, while walking four batters during the 6 1/3 innings he worked. Phillip Anderson assumed a 2-0 count against Ross Miles in the top of the seventh after being called upon to relieve Cartledge with one out. The game was closed out on a beautiful double-play by the Bulldogs.