Two more wins and a little closer to playing for it all -- a state baseball championship.
That's where the Thomson Bulldogs found themselves after sweeping the Cairo Surupmakers in a doubleheader in the second round of the Georgia Class AAA state baseball playoffs at the Thomson field last Wednesday night.
On Tuesday of this week, Thomson entertained the Gainesville Red Elephants in the quarterfinal series. Complete coverage of those games is featured at wwwmcduffiemirror.com A wrap-up of those games also will be included in the sports section of The McDuffie Mirror next week.
"I'm so proud of these boys," said a jubilant Thomson head coach Jason Osborn following his team's sweep of Cairo by scores of 11-3 and 6-3. "They've really worked hard to get to this point in the season. I just hope we can keep winning."
The Bulldogs, who captured the 2010 Region 3-AAA title for the second year in a row, got four more homeruns in the two-game series against Cairo. They came off the bats of Nick Rau, Will Tankersley and Dontavis Brown. Rau hit his 11th homer of the season, while Tankersley hit his 10th homer in the first game and his 11th dinger in Game 2. Brown's homerun -- his seventh of the season -- came in Game 1, a solo blast over the centerfield fence in the bottom of the fourth inning.
As a team, Thomson had hit .....homeruns this season going into their series against Gainesville. It sets a school record. The Bulldogs brought in their 24-4 record against Gainesville, who had compiled an overall record of 28-3. The Red Elephants captured the Region 7-AAA championship earlier this season.
In Game 1 of the series against Cairo, Thomson breezed to an easy victory behind a four-hit pitching performance from junior ace lefty Abram Cartledge. He went the distance, struck out seven and walked just two batters.
Cartledge, who recorded his 10th victory of the season to go with two losses this season, gave up a run in the first and two more in the third. As the game progressed and his team provided him with a comfortable lead, he seemed to get better as he held the Surupmakers to only one hit during the last four innings of the game. He managed to retire the side in order in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
Prior to the game, coach Osborn told his players, "Give me your best."
They followed his request to a tee, as they pounded out a total of 13 hits, including seven doubles and two homeruns. They also played solid, defensively and committed only one error.
"Abe came around and did a good job for us," said coach Osborn. "We also hit the ball well and played very solid defense. When a team does all of those things, it's hard to beat them. I'm just glad we played as well as we played and won."
After Cairo went up 1-0 in the top of the first, the Bulldogs came bounced back in the bottom of that frame to tie the game at 1-1. Sophomore first baseman Andy Grimaud smashed a double down the right field line and later moved to third base on a sacrifice fly by Rau. He eventually scored on a RBI double by senior third baseman Cody Ewest.
Thomson took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second when Cartledge led off with a double to leftfield. Junior courtesy runner Jesse Usry, who took Cartledge's place on the base path later moved to third base on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore catcher Austin Cooper. Usry raced home when junior designated hitter reached on a miscue by Cairo first baseman Donnie Baxter.
In the third, Cairo reclaimed the lead 3-2.
But that lead didn't hold up long, as the Bulldogs stormed back with four runs to take a 6-3 lead.
Rau blasted a one-out solo homer over the leftfield fence, which tied the game at 3-3. Ewest followed with a single before Tankersley walked and Cartledge singled to load the bases. Cooper later hit a two-run double into leftfield.
Brown's homer in the fourth and Tankersley's two-run dinger with Ewest aboard thanks to a walk made it a 9-3 game.
Thomson tallied two more runs in the fifth and sixth innings.
Senior right fielder Drake Smallwood drew a two-out walk and later raced all the way around from first base to score on a head-first slide at home plate when Brown lined a RBI down the right field line. Rau scored the team's last run after he walked in the sixth and scored on a RBI double by Tankersley -- his third RBI of the contest.