Zack Walker pitched 5 1/3 innings of two-hit ball, and every Rockdale County starter had at least one hit Tuesday night, as the Bulldogs ran past the Luella Lions 8-6 in a Region 2-AAAAAA at Rockdale Field.
With the victory, Rockdale raised its season record to one game above .500 to 10-9, 4-4 in region play. The Lions dropped to 8-6 on the season, 4-3 in the region.
“If he (Walker) can keep it around the zone and mix up speeds well and keep the ball down, it works out pretty well for us,” Bulldogs coach Justin Arrington said. “He’s been big for us this year.”
Despite his fantastic finish, Walker started the game a little shaky.
After getting Luella lead-off hitter Jeremie Little out on a called third-strike, Walker issued consecutive walks to leftfielder Kolton Ingram and pitcher John Goodman, putting runners on first and second with one out. Clean-up hitter Bryant Harris made Walker pay for the two free passes, knocking a 2-1 pitch into the left-centerfield gap, driving in Ingram and Goodman for a 2-0 Lions lead after one inning.
Luella loaded the bases in the second frame on a two-out single by Little. A throwing error by Rockdale third baseman Will Haedy allowed Ingram to reach base, and Walker walked Goodman, filling up the bags. But, Walker got Harris to strike out, ending the Lions’ threat.
Rockdale used five consecutive singles to score four runs in the bottom of the second. Bulldogs’ right-fielder Jelani Clarington and catcher Tyler Page singled, putting runners at first and second with no outs. Bulldogs’ designated hitter Elijah Dailey laid down a sacrifice-bunt, but Luella pitcher Goodman had trouble fielding the ball and never threw to first and all hands were safe.
Third baseman Davis Foster singled in Clarington, and centerfielder Yancey Freeny drove in Page and Dailey with Rockdale’s fifth consecutive hit.
Foster, who advanced to third on Freeny’s single, scored on a wild pitch by Goodman, giving the Bulldogs a 4-2 lead after two innings.
Walker faced the minimum in the third and fourth innings, while the Bulldogs scored another run in the third and three in the fourth.
Freeny led off the fourth inning with a single. He stole second and advanced to third after Luella second baseman Tyler Tatham allowed catcher Devin Connell’s throw get past him.
Hardy drove in Freeny on a groundout to shortstop. Malachi Eskin, Jeff Sweat and Terrell McLaughlin followed with singles – with McLaughlin’s base hit driving in Eskin. After Goodman struck out Clarington for the second out, Page and Dailey followed with singles, scoring Sweat while loading the bases. However, Goodman got Foster to fly out to right field, ending the inning, but not before Rockdale went up 8-2 after four innings.
However, Luella wasn’t ready to just roll over.
After Walker got Lions designated hitter Jordan Brock to fly out to centerfield, he allowed a single to catcher Connell. Walker was relieved by junior Jake Stowers, who proceeded to walk the next three batters, walking in Connell in the process.
Ingram hit a sacrifice-fly to left that scored pinch-hitter Quarterrio Simpson, who had walked. Goodman singled and drove in rightfielder Zach Skeen, and Harris followed with an RBI single that drove in Little, narrowing the score to 8-6.
Stowers got third baseman Don Hammond to ground out to third, ending the Lions’ comeback bid.
Dailey relieved Stowers in the top of the seventh inning and retired Luella in order, preserving the win.
Rockdale is back in action Thursday as they host Salem in a non-region game. First pitch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.