WGTC freshman hurler Brad Bartlett provided a golden opportunity for the Knights to take Game 1 before suffering a tough-luck, 2-1 loss after a pair of outfield errors set up the game-winning run in the top of the seventh for Georgia Perimeter College.
The Jaguars would go on to complete the four-game series sweep with a 13-2, seven-inning victory in the nightcap.
“I thought the first game was great. Defensive blunders in the outfield kind of cost us there. It allowed them to get the position and get a guy on third and a sacrifice. In the second game, [starter Ryan] Turner just had a tough day in the first two innings. But after that, I was proud of the bullpen that came in,” Pratt said.
In the opener, Bartlett, a Troup County High School product, went the distance, yielding just one earned runs on eight hits, but his counterpart was equally strong on Saturday.
GPC starter Clay Garner worked 6.2 innings to get the win, scattering just one run on six hits.
Still, Pratt was pleased with the way his freshman southpaw toed the rubber against one of the top teams in the conference.
“Bartlett’s one of the best pitchers in the league, and I’m happy to have him. He’s going to be one of our aces next year. We’re bringing some guys in that can join him in the corral,” Pratt said.
Both teams scored a run in the first inning, as the Jaguars (36-12, 16-8) got one courtesy of three singles, while the Golden Knights (18-28, 9-15) answered with a run after Dusty Davis led off the bottom of the frame with a double and came around to score on an RBI sacrifice fly by Rus Morman.
The fielding woes hurt WGTC in the end, though, as the Jaguars scored an unearned run in the seventh, which proved to be the difference.
The Knights got runners on first and second in the bottom of the seventh, but couldn’t get the timely hit to bring them in on Saturday.
Corey Adkins went 2-for-2 and Caleb Zalunardo was 2-for-3 for WGTC in the opener to lead the way offensively.
In the nightcap, GPC put the game away early, getting six runs in the first on six hits and four more in the second on four hits en route to a 16-hit game for the visitors.
It proved to be a tough setback literally and figuratively for WGTC after Jaguar catcher John Fidanza blasted a line drive off Turner’s right foot in the second inning, dropping the 6-foot-3 Whitesburg native to the ground immediately. Turner had to be helped off the field and Pratt said the shot will unfortunately end the freshman’s season.
“It’s broken. So he’ll be out for the rest of the year,” Pratt said.
Trailing 10-0 in the bottom of the fourth, WGTC finally got some momentum on a two-run double by former Carrollton High School standout Phillip DePriest, who brought home Adkins and Zalunardo with his shot to the left-field wall.
The Golden Knights got two more on in the fifth, but stranded runners at first and second.
GPC tacked on three more runs in the seventh for the 11-run margin.
Jaguar sophomore hurler Adam Clark — who prepped at Cartersville High School — started for GPC and worked five innings, yielding two runs on six hits with three walks, a hit batsman and two strikeouts to earn the win. Andre Wilson and Andy Threatt combined to work the final two innings for the Jags.
GPC busted out 16 hits in the Game 2 victory, led by three-hit efforts from David Van Horn and Jacob Johnson.
WGTC had seven hits in the nightcap, paced by DePriest, who went 1-for-3 with a double and two RBI.
And even though Pratt didn’t get the ultimate result he was looking for, the second-year Golden Knight coach was encouraged by the way his team played for the majority of the series.
“You know, I thought we played three out of four really good games with them — 6-3, 11-8 and 2-1 — but our program is young and we’re going to keep building. You know, we got some more good news [Saturday]. I got a commitment from a big left-hand pitcher. We’re bringing in some talent and we’ll be ready,” he said.
WGTC still has an opportunity to earn a berth in the Region 17 Tournament, but it will have to finish out the regular season on a strong note, beginning with a three-game series against Gordon College next week. WGTC wraps up the regular season against East Georgia College the following week.
“I mean, we wanted to try to at least win one here. We almost had a couple of them, but it’s still an opportunity. The numbers are still there. We’ve just got to take care of business with the two teams that are with us right now, Gordon [College] and East [Georgia],” Pratt said.