VALDOSTA — Cory Pope gave the Lowndes Vikings everything they needed in game one of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Alcovy Tigers. Then in game two, Lowndes’ offense came alive and provided plenty of support as the Vikings swept Alcovy 2-0 and 8-1 in the second round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs at Noel George Field.
With the sweep, the Vikings advance to the Elite 8 — the state quarterfinals — where they will face either Roswell or Mill Creek, who will meet in a doubleheader today in Hoschton, on Tuesday.
“The kids get along, they work well together, their coach-able,” Lowndes head coach Danny Redshaw said. “I am proud of them. They work hard and they get after it. And we are not counting on one or two guys to get it done for us.”
Despite just three hits in game one, Lowndes was able to grab the series opening victory thanks to Pope’s second straight complete game shutout.
The lack of run support was nothing new for Pope, as he has received just a total of six combined hits and three runs in his two starts this postseason.
“Cory expects to throw a shutout every time he goes on the field,” Redshaw said. “That is how he is. That is just the luck of the draw. He is our No. 1 guy and we are going to see everybody else’s No. 1 guy, whether it is a region doubleheader on Friday night or a playoff doubleheader. It is good to have a guy that you know is going to give you a chance to win the baseball game.”
On Wednesday, though, Pope wasn’t perfect, but he was good enough to rely on his defense and get out of jams when needed, preserving the Vikings’ lead throughout the game.
In the fifth inning, with Lowndes ahead 2-0, Pope allowed three straight two-out singles to load the bases, after the Vikings turned an F1, 1-3 double play, before inducing a fly out to left field that ended the inning.
Then, just three outs away from the win, Pope ran into more trouble in the seventh inning when Alcovy got the game-tying run on first base with one out. After a meeting on the mound, Pope calmed down and struck out the last two batters to retire the game and secure Lowndes’ 2-0 victory.
Both of the Vikings’ runs came in the bottom of the third inning. After Garrett Fuller struck out to start the inning, David Wortham singled and advanced to third on a throwing error by Alcovy’s pitcher, coming on an attempted pickoff move to first base. Wortham scored the following at-bat when Blake Smith singled into right field.
Then, Smith advanced to second on a wild pitch and to third on a balk call. Smith scored on a sacrifice fly to right field by catcher Josh Day.
In the second game, the Viking scored two runs in the first and two more in the second inning to build a 4-0 lead. Alcovy got a run in the bottom second inning, which the Vikings responded from with a run in the top fourth.
The Vikings pounded out nine hits, four of which came from Wortham, who finished just a home run shy of hitting for the cycle but managed two doubles. The senior, who is committed to Valdosta State, also scored three of the Vikings’ six runs.
“(Wortham) had a heck of a series now,” Redshaw said. “That is big. We needed to start hitting the ball.”
Wortham started the first inning with a triple, scoring on a wild pitch. Josh Day singled and scored on a double from Ty Harwell to straight away centerfield.
In the second inning, Dalton Register walked and scored on Wortham’s double. Wortham scored two batters later when Day singled into the outfield.
Lowndes got its fifth run in the fourth inning when Wortham singled, stole second base, moved to third on a grounder and scored on a wild pitch.
In the top of the seventh inning, the Vikings added insurance runs. Register walked and scored on Wortham’s final double of the game, which carried to the warning track — nearly carrying out which would have completed the cycle. Then, Garrett Fuller scored on a sacrifice fly to right field by Blake Smith, making the score 8-1.
Alcovy scored its only run in the second inning off a double to centerfield, which was bobbled by Garrett Fuller, allowing the runner to advance to third base. Then, the runner was given home base after Register’s throw to third sailed into the Lowndes dugout.
The Tigers’ run was unearned and did not hurt Logan Hutchinson’s statistics. Hutchinson finished the game allowing the one unearned run on just four hits, while striking out nine batters, improving to 2-0 this postseason.