For only the second time in 42 years, the Thomson High School Bulldogs played in the semi-final round of the Georgia Class AAA state baseball playoffs on Monday and Tuesday against Columbus.
The long drought of getting to that destination ended on May 18 when Thomson swept the Gainesville Red Elephants 14-7 and 13-1 at the Thomson field. It marked the third consecutive time this year in the playoffs that the Bulldogs have swept opponents.
The sweep of Gainesville, who came into the series ranked No. 2 in the state poll, allowed Thomson a shot at the Columbus High Blue Devils on Monday and Tuesday of this week. Please see front page of this week's edition for story concerning the semi-final series.
In last week's series against Gainesville, the Bulldogs found themselves trailing the Red Elephants 4-0 after the first half inning of play.
Suddenly, it looked as though Gainesville was every bit as good as Thomson and everybody else had heard they were.
Gainesville tagged Thomson starting pitcher Abram Cartledge for three hits -- the biggest being a two-run single by third baseman Ryan Griffith, who eventually was used as a relief pitcher in Game 1.
Prior to the Bulldogs batting for the first time, coach Jason Osborn asked his players to respond "one run at a time." They did exactly what he asked of them.
Thomson went on to score a run in the bottom of the first inning to make it a 4-1 game. Junior centerfielder Dontavis Brown was hit by a pitch as the lead-off batter. Brown eventually scored on a RBI double by senior third baseman Cody Ewest.
Cartledge, who went on to post his 11th victory of the season on the mound, held Gainesville scoreless the next three innings.
Meanwhile in his first at-bat of the game, Cartledge belted a solo-homerun that made it a 4-2 game.
In the bottom of the third inning, Thomson erupted for five runs on four hits. Those hits were delivered by Nick Rau, Austin Cooper, Nic Wood and Cody Ewest, who went long with the first of two homeruns in the game. His ninth dinger of the year was a two-run shot over the left field fence at the Thomson field.
The uprising gave Thomson their first lead of the game, 7-4.
Cartledge stayed on the hill until the sixth inning after he gave up three solo-homers to Gainesville's Sloan Strickland, David Gonzalez and Michael Lorentz. Spelling him at pitcher was junior right-handed relief pitcher Nick Rau, who went into the game and shut down the Red Elephants. Rau struck out four of the eight batters he faced.
Thomson struck for four more runs in the fourth inning. The four hits came from Rau, Copper, Wood and Ewest, who hit his 10th homer over the left field fence.
The Bulldogs tallied three more insurance runs during the last two innings. In the sixth, junior leftfielder Will Tankersley hit a two-run double into the right center field gap. In Game 2, sophomore starter Andy Grimaud had the finest pitching performance of his prep career. Grimaud went the distance -- he and his dandy curve ball.
"It was a great memory," Grimaud told reporters after the game. "I grew up."
Game 2 was tied at 1-1 until Thomson hit nine runs on four hits in the top of the fifth. The hits came from Ewest, Tankersley and Rau, who hit his 12th homer of the season -- a grand slam that sailed over the right center field fence. It was his second grand slam of the season. Tankersley leads the team in that department with three.