Despite being on spring break this week, the Winder-Barrow baseball team kept its same routine — showing up at the school at 11 a.m. to lift weights and practicing at the same time of day.
And more importantly, the Bulldoggs kept up their winning ways, sweeping Creekside on Wednesday — 8-2 in game 1 and 13-0 in five innings on the strength of a no-hitter by Austin Lockridge in the nightcap — in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAAAA playoffs.
The top-ranked Bulldoggs (26-3), the No. 1 seed from Region 8, ran their winning streak to 18 games and looked dominant in doing so.
“It’s been great for these guys to keep our actual routine,” Winder-Barrow coach Brian Smith said after the sweep. “These guys are bought in. They love it and they realize what’s in front of them.”
Winder-Barrow quickly jumped ahead in game 1 Wednesday, scoring four runs in the bottom of the first inning on a pair of two-run singles by Zack Smith and Trace Jeffers.
The Seminoles (13-12-1), the No. 4 seed from Region 5, cut into the lead in the fourth on a two-run triple by DeAndre Arnold, but the Bulldoggs got one of those runs back in the fifth when Hunter Marsh hit the first of his two home runs to boost Winder-Barrow’s advantage to 5-2. Marsh struck again in the sixth with a three-run homer to put the game away.
Winder-Barrow sent 11 men to the plate scored eight runs in the top of the first to quickly put game 2 out of reach. The Bulldoggs needed just one hit in the inning to score the eight runs, and the one was a three-run blast by Brady House that made it 8-0. The Bulldoggs added three more in the fourth on the strength of a two-run single by Sam Darling and then got a long two-run blast by Smith in the fifth.
“The reward of getting the No. 1 seed is you get to play a 4 seed in the first round,” Brian Smith said. “The velocity was down a little bit for them and that did take some time to adjust to, but you could see our guys figuring it out. And we ended up finishing the first one strong and were pretty steady in the second one.”
Senior right-hander Cain Tatum picked up the win on the mound for the Bulldoggs, tossing a complete game and allowing just three hits and a pair of walks while notching 12 strikeouts.
Lockridge’s game 2 performance was even stronger as the senior southpaw held the Seminoles hitless over five innings, walked one and struck out 11.
“Both those guys were great,” Smith said of Tatum and Lockridge. “We expected to have all the relief ready to go and didn’t have to use anybody. Now we have to make our bullpen sessions in between this and the next round a big emphasis because the other guys honestly needed some work. But we couldn’t pull those two guys today. They were too sharp.”
The Bulldoggs will face either Cambridge, the No. 2 seed from Region 7, or River Ridge (the No. 3 seed from Region 6) in the Sweet Sixteen, beginning May 2. Cambridge and River Ridge split the first two games of their series Wednesday and are scheduled to play the rubber game Thursday afternoon.
The Bulldoggs know the competition will stiffen significantly, as Cambridge would bring some strong pitching while River Ridge knocked out Winder-Barrow in the Sweet Sixteen a year ago with a pair of run-rule victories and has a handful of players returning from that squad, which reached the Final Four.
“The way it sets up, with that second round, it’s almost always going to be a team around east Cobb or that area (of metro Atlanta), and it’s always going to be legit teams coming at you,” Smith said. “It’s going to be an exciting test for us and I can’t wait for it.”
See more in the May 1 edition of the Barrow News-Journal.