McEachern (23-6) held a 1-0 lead at the end of the third inning before things unraveled in the fourth. Tift County (16-13) scored two runs off three errors and a walk to take a 2-1 lead, and Zack Bullard, the Blue
Devils’ starting pitcher, kept the Indians off the board the rest of the way to steal the series from the Region 4AAAAAA champion.
McEachern committed two more errors — one each in the fifth and sixth innings — for a total of five, but while the last two weren’t as costly, they weren’t any less disappointing given how the game was lost.
“We talked about it all year long,” McEachern coach Dan Torrenti said. “It comes down to baseball. It wasn’t an act of God. There were some unfortunate miscues where we didn’t make plays on groundballs. You can’t beat good teams in games like this with that situation. We didn’t make plays (Tuesday).
“I was proud of our pitchers. I was proud of our kids. Obviously, this isn’t where we wanted to end up.”
The game was a pitchers’ duel between Bullard — the Game 1 winner Friday — and McEachern’s Bruce Kirkpatrick, who gave up two unearned runs off two hits and two walks in innings. He also had five strikeouts.
Dalton Geekie relieved Kirkpatrick in the sixth. He struck out the side in both of the innings he pitched and didn’t allow a run over the final two innings.
Much like Friday’s Game 1, which McEachern lost 4-1, Bullard was tough to beat.
The Indians manufactured a run in the third inning, when Phil Tucker led off with a walk, moved to second on Johnathan Wells’ sacrifice bunt, to third on a passed ball and scored on Aaron Morris’ grounder.
The margin didn’t hold up.
Bullard drew a one-out walk in the top of the fourth and moved to third when Blake Suggs reached first on an error. Bullard then scored on a throwing error that allowed Will Reinhardt to reach. After Alex Abbott’s single pushed pinch-runner Ryan Ross — who was in for Reinhardt — to third, Ross scored as Briggs Benson reached first on another throwing error, giving the Blue Devils the 2-1 advantage.
The outcome could have been different if the game had been played as planned.
After dropping the series opener, McEachern pulled even in the series with an 11-2 victory in Friday’s nightcap. Rain washed out the teams’ chances of playing Saturday and Monday, which allowed Tift County to start Bullard again for the deciding game of the series.
Bullard ended Tuesday’s game giving up one earned run on four hits, while striking out one with four walks in a complete game.
“With our pitching depth, we definitely felt like, going into Saturday’s game, that we were sitting in a really good spot,” Torrenti said. “We felt really comfortable. But the rain came. We talked about it all weekend. We knew we were going to see Bullard again, and they would have been crazy not to throw him because the guy’s a bulldog.
“It’s the situation we were dealt. We tried our best to overcome it, and we weren’t able to.”
With the season at an end, Torrenti reflected on a strong debut season at McEachern.
“We had some special moments,” he said. “We were relentless all year long, and we were relentless (Tuesday). As much as it hurts right now, I think 23-win seasons aren’t easy to come by. That’s definitely an accomplishment. Winning a region like Region (4AAAAAA) is definitely something to be proud of, but this isn’t how we wanted to finish up.”