The Thomson Bulldogs defeated the Cross Creek Razorbacks by a score of 4-1 Saturday, in a game played at Thomson High School.
The victory advances the Bulldogs to the regional championship playoff game against Harlem, to be played in Thomson at 6 p.m. today.
"Let's work on winning 7 one-inning ball games today," head coach Jason Osborn told his team before the game.
Thomson was more than up to the challenge. Starting pitcher Abe Cartledge held the Razorbacks scoreless in the top of the first inning, striking out 3 of the 4 batters he faced. On offense, Thomson scored in the bottom of the first when Dontavous "Juicy" Brown scored on a sacrifice fly to center field by Will Tankersley.
Cartledge struggled briefly in the second inning, walking one batter and giving up a single, but Cross Creek failed to score. The score held at 1-0 in Thomson's favor until the fourth inning, when Nick Rau and Brett Jenkins both scored for the Bulldogs. Thomson added another run in the fifth inning when Phillip Anderson came home on a single to right field by Rau.
For his part, Cartledge settled down after the second and completed the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings with little difficulty. Cross Creek did score a run in the top of the seventh, but it was too little, too late, and Thomson won the game 4-1 without having to bat in the seventh.
"That's what good pitchers do after a tough inning, they come back out and have a good inning, and that's what Abe did today," Osborn said after the game. "I never even considered taking Abe out of the game. I told him today that this was his game to finish, and he looked me in the eye and said 'I got this, Coach'. I tell you, I'm glad he's on our team."
Will Tankersley also proved his value to the team, not only in his usual role as a slugger, but running the bases as well. Tankersley laid down a bunt in the fifth and beat out the throw to make it safe to first, moving Anderson over to second and setting up his score when Rau came up to bat.
"Coach noticed their third baseman was playing a little deep, and he pointed it out to me," Tankersley said following the game. "We figured if I bunted toward third I could probably beat it out, and that's what happened."
With nine seniors on the team, the fact that prom came just a few hours after the game wasn't far from Osborn's mind.
"Make good decisions tonight, men," Osborn told his senior players after the game. "I'm confident you will, because you've all been brought up right. Remember, you've got a team family here that's counting on you to be here. Don't let a bad decision tonight affect everything else in your life. So have fun tonight, but make good decisions."
"If anybody needs a ride or anything, you have my number, you call me," assistant coach Aaron Hall added.
"I was that age once," Osborn said later. "I know they have a lot of distractions right now. But I couldn't ask for a better bunch of guys, so I'm not too worried."