Kaleb Whitfield had an outsanding read on a deep fly ball smashed into the crisp Cairo night.
The Valdosta centerfielder sprinted to the gap and dove acrobatically to keep his Wildcats’ 6-0 advantage in the third inning.
But miscommunication led to calamity in Tuesday’s tilt, as Whitfield violently collided into Valdosta leftfielder Jacob McMillan when both went for the out.
As Cairo coach Ron Best waved his runner home – unaware that Whitfield made the impressive catch – both players laid lifeless in the outfield.
The stadium then silenced, and the dawning cognizance emerged that this was no backyard bender.
“It’s scary to see a collision like that beacuse anything around the shoulders and heads is such a dangerous area,” said Best, whose team kneed for the entire 34 minute delay out of respect.
No formal diagnosis was relayed by paramedics, but both players did have extremity movement as they were lifted into the ambulance via a stretcher.
Both players were taken to Archibald Hospial in Thomasville, 16 miles from the Cairo campus.
Whitfield’s parents, who were in attendance, accompanied him in the ambulance. McMillan’s mother left a hospital in Tifton upon hearing the news. Valdosta sent assistant coach Adam Haire to represent the school.
Schuman said Whitfield likely had broken bones in his “mouth area” – likely a broken jaw – and McMillan sustained a chipped tooth. Schuman was adament to note that further word will be relayed tomorrow, and didn’t want to deliver a premature diagnosis.
The Wildcats returned to the diamond after the 34 minute delay and continued to flex their offensive juggernaut. Valdosta poured on another six runs in the final four innings, and left with a 12-2 win.
“We wanted to make sure we got to the hospital to see them,” said Schuman, whose team has scored 35 runs in three games this season. “That kind of motivated us. We’re a real close knit team and they’re an important part.”
Best’s squad still remains winless early this season. The Syrupmakers hiccups have stemmed from late offensive momentum.
“I don’t like to say that we learn from losses, because you don’t need to learn to lose,” Best said. “But if we learn from the individual at bats and pitches and focus on our region games, which are the ones that count, then we’ll be in good shape.”
Cairo will continue to hunt for its first win in Friday’s road contest at Early County.
Valdosta, down two starters for the time being, is 3-0 and next plays Clay on Saturday in the Lowndes Tournament at home.