MACON, Ga. — When the Social Circle baseball team traveled to face Academy for Classical Education (ACE) in the quarterfinals of the GHSA Class A-Public state playoffs, the Redskins were on the cusp of doing something no past team has seen come to fruition.
Winning a best-of-3 series meant the Redskins would advance to the semifinals for the first time in program history.
And the Redskins did just that.
Social Circle won games one and three 6-3 and 5-4, respectively, on May 10-11 to advance.
Head coach Kevin Dawkins acknowledged what the accomplishment meant to him and his team.
“It means a lot to me to see them accomplish this success,” Dawkins said. “I am super proud of them, and they’ve put their names in the history books being the first team in school history to go to the Final Four.”
Game three came down to the wire.
In the top of the sixth inning, Mason Allen lined a ball to right field to score Lucas Langley from third giving Social Circle a 5-2 advantage.
ACE cut the deficit to 5-4 in the bottom half off a two-run homer to left field.
Then, after the Redskins didn’t get anyone on base in the seventh, ACE had a runner on first and second with two outs. Dawkins elected to pull starter Will Atha and bring in Caden Richardson.
Richardson closed the deal, striking out a batter and preserving Social Circle’s 5-4 win.
Dawkins said Richardson was “ready” for the moment.
“He wanted the ball and was ready to go in,” Dawkins said. “He didn’t shy away from the opportunity to go out there and save the game for us.”
Though pitching sealed the win down the stretch, the Redskins had a hot, offensive start to the game.
In the first inning, Brayden Mitchell reached base on a dropped third strike. Back-to-back singles from Logan Cross and Mitchell McCullough loaded the bases. Paul Kendall had a sacrifice fly to center field to advance Cross and courtesy runner, Jason Ball to second and third. Mitchell scored to take a 1-0 lead.
Ty Lemaster nailed a single to center field that scored both Cross and Ball to widen the Social Circle lead 3-0.
Neither team brought home a run in the second or third innings. Additionally, the Redskins didn’t score a run in the top half of the fourth. In the bottom half, though, ACE scored two runs.
Cross provided a little more cushion in the fifth inning with an RBI single that scored Mason Moore from third. In the top of the sixth, Allen drove in what would turn out to be the game-winning run.
Atha had a solid outing on the mound pitching 6.2 innings and allowing 11 hits and three earned runs while striking three batters out.
Atha’s game three performance caught the admiration from his head coach.
“This is the second time in the playoffs where he’s had to come into game three and shut the door down and give us a chance to win,” Dawkins said. “I can’t say enough about the progress he’s made from last year to this year. From being a guy in the bullpen to a game three starter.”
In the game one win, Social Circle was led by Cross at the plate, which, according to Dawkins, was “expected.” The first baseman went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Kendall and Landon Davis each had an RBI.
Ball delivered on the mound, too, going 6.2 innings allowing 10 hits, one earned run and had five strikeouts. Just like in game three, Richardson came in and recorded the game’s final out.
Advancing to the senifinals, Social Circle will travel to face Charlton County — a No. 1 seed from Region 2A-Public who is currently 30-6.
According to Dawkins, winning two out of three against Charlton County will be difficult, but he feels the team is ready for the challenge.
“Is it going to be a tough fight? Yeah, absolutely,” Dawkins said.
“But I would argue that it will be tough for Charlton County as well. When you’re one of the final four teams, you earned your spot and done some things right. If we continue to play our brand of baseball, I like our chances.”