SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — After putting up 24 runs to take a suspended game one, Social Circle turned to its pitching to complete a sweep of St. Francis Friday night at Redskins Park.
Junior right-hander Luke Smith and closer Caden Richardson combined to strike out 15 to finish off St. Francis 6-0 in game two.
Social Circle, 23-8, advances to a second round series at Elbert County on Thursday, May 4. Elbert County is the champs from Region 8A-Division I and defeated Jasper County Friday in two games. Elbert County is 24-5 this season and ranked No. 2 in Class A. Social Circle has been ranked as high as fifth.
Head coach Kevin Dawkins said his team showed its grit coming back from a disappointing final regular season series with Prince Avenue Christian, a long 26-hour rain delay and an early deficit in game one, to beat St. Francis.
“Baseball matters to this team and I knew they would be ready and be willing to give all they got,” Dawkins said. “This team has worked hard all year. We had great pitching there in the second game and it came after we got a lot of runs to cross in the first one.”
St. Francis threw left-handed ace Evan Wood. Wood struck out five, including the Redskins’ top two hitters in Mason Moore and Logan Cross in the first two innings of the second game.
An adjustment was made by the top of the third inning as the Redskins were the visiting team in game two.
“He threw the ball well, but I was able to back up on the plate, and on the next at bat I waited on an inside pitch,” Cross said.
The adjustment worked for a key, two-run single that scored both Lucas Langley and Moore.
The 2-0 lead would be all the help Smith needed.
After a shaky first inning, which saw the Knights get a hit and a walk, Smith struck out seven over the next three innings.
The Knights’ Jackson Westmoreland, who had the hit in the first inning off Smith, walked and was vying to steal third in the third inning. Social Circle catcher Mitch McCullough, however, gunned a throw to third base for the second out.
“Once we scored in the third, I felt much more relaxed,” Smith said. “But then getting that play from my catcher, that helped a lot, too.”
Smith, who struck out 12 for the game, said he needed to make his own adjustment after a bad start at Prince Avenue.
“I struggled in my last start at Prince Avenue and I knew I needed to go back and work on some things. I needed to get back and do the right things again,” Smith said.
He did allow six walks, including two each to Westmoreland and the Knights’ No. 2 batter, Sam Delikat.
The Knight pair got on with the free passes in the fifth with one out. Then Smith came back, getting a catch near the track in right center followed by a strikeout of cleanup batter Mark Buelow to end the threat.
Luke Hill got St. Francis’ second hit in the sixth but was left stranded on first after a grounder ended the inning. Richardson struck out the side in the seventh.
Brayden Mitchell added a two-run triple in fourth that extended Social Circle’s lead to 5-0. Mitchell scored on an error to account for the Skins’ six runs off just three hits.
Tied at six after the first rain delay Thursday afternoon, Social Circle scored 13 runs when the teams came back, only to stop the game again, with two out in the bottom of the second inning.
St. Francis got a pop up to end the 13-run inning but were down 19-6.
Up 20-9, Lucas Langley tripled to score Paul Kendall for a 21-9 lead. In the fourth, Logan Cross got his fifth hit of the game, knocking in Brayden Mitchell for a 24-10 lead.
Cross finished with five hits, four runs scored and three RBIs. Mason Moore had four hits and four RBIs, including a two-run double that made it 6-6 in the first.
Paul Kendall scored four times while Landon Harpe had three runs and three RBIs. Ty Lemaster scored three runs.
Blaize Pierce got the win, going 4.2 innings. He gave up five runs, two earned, off three hits and four walks. Three Redskin errors allowed four of the runs to score.