Ace pitcher Manning West had another impressive outing, but it wasn’t enough to lead Apalachee to an upset over Greenbrier on Tuesday, April 13.
Apalachee battled the third-ranked Wolfpack to a 1-1 tie through seven innings, but allowed a four-run rally in the top of the eighth to lose 5-1 in the first game of a two-game GHSA Region 8-AAAAA series this week. West pitched six innings and struck out nine batters while allowing five hits and one run. Greenbrier starter David Bell rivaled West with 11 strikeouts and five hits and allowed just one run in 7 2/3 innings of work.
“That was seven incredible innings,” said Apalachee coach Allan Bailey. “Both pitchers threw really well. There were big hits at big times for both teams. We put some pressure on them and they made some good plays on us.
“He [West] battled hard. All four of his pitches were working. He had to extend some counts and ultimately the pitch count got him to where he had to come out (112 pitches).”
Apalachee (10-13, 2-9 region) had two chances to score runs throughout the early innings. West walked to lead off the second inning, then courtesy runner Nate Valles stole second base and advanced to third on a ground ball. A strikeout stranded him 90 feet from home plate.
Traver Park walked with two outs in the third inning and he stole second base two pitches later. Ethan Middlebrooks hit a hard ground ball up the middle and Park rounded third base, but he was tagged by the catcher five feet from home plate.
“We had our opportunities,” Bailey said. “Tip your hat to that pitcher. He threw the ball hard; we just have to attack the fastball better and find ways to be more productive when the situations are given to us.”
Greenbrier (19-4, 10-1) made Apalachee pay for squandering its opportunities with a two-out rally in the fourth inning. An error at second base allowed the inning to continue and the Wolfpack responded with a walk and a single up the middle to score the first run of the game.
Apalachee responded in the bottom half of the inning with its own two-out rally. Judah Powell singled up the middle and reached second base on Dalen Nye’s hit into shallow left field. Kolby Sellers replaced Powell at second base but he didn’t stand there long. Jordan Wilson hit a hard ground ball into left field three pitches later, and Sellers sprinted around third base and slid safely through home plate to knot the score at 1-1.
West conceded the mound to Jesse Greenway in the seventh inning. After getting the leadoff man to fly out, Greenway allowed two hits and a walk to load the bases, but settled down to retire the next two batters to get out of the inning.
The Wildcats had an uneventful bottom of the seventh to send the game to extra innings, but that’s when their night fell apart. Rylan Smaltz hit the leadoff batter. A miscommunication between him and first baseman Powell allowed the next batter to reach first base on a bunt. The next batter walked on five pitches to load the bases.
Greenbrier didn’t waste this opportunity, as a third walk allowed the eventual game-winning run to cross home plate. Greenbrier scored its third run on a wild pitch and added two more with a two-run single.
“We call those freebies and we gave them too many freebies in that last inning,” Bailey said.
The teams will wrap up their series Thursday, April 15, in Evans, and Apalachee will finish up its season next week with a pair of region games against Johnson-Gainesville.