Samuel D. Logan
Valdosta Daily Times
For the last home game of the season, the Valdosta High Wildcats baseball team had a lot to celebrate. The Wildcats honored their only senior player this season, Daniel Tefft, during the annual senior night celebration prior to the game’s first pitch.
The Wildcats then took on the Thomas County Central Yellow Jackets and earned a 4-1 victory.
“It was a great win, but more importantly, getting a win over a quality team going into the playoffs next week was even better. We’re focusing on taking it one game at a time and getting the W,” said coach Bart Shuman.
Jacob McMillan was the Wildcats’ starting pitcher and threw well until giving up a hit in the top of the fourth inning that resulted in the Yellow Jackets’ first score.
Alex Dukes was the starting pitcher for the Yellow Jackets and threw two innings before being pulled for Doug Smith in the third. Dukes was able to successfully strike out Tefft in his first at-bat, but gave up two runs in the first two innings. David Posas and Justin Williams made it safely across home plate to give the ’Cats a 2-0 lead.
In the bottom of the third, the Wildcats had the bases loaded with two outs but were unable to score a run after Seth Shuman flew out to centerfield.
In the fourth inning, the Yellow Jackets were able to get a run, and also caused a pitching change from the Wildcats as John Eager came in.
To begin the bottom of the fifth inning, the Yellow Jackets changed pitchers once again to go with Eli Taylor. Tefft and Logan Stephens grabbed a run a piece, giving the Wildcats their 4-1 lead.
Changing pitchers once more in the sixth inning to Stone Stephenson, the Yellow Jackets were able to keep the Wildcats from scoring again.
However, the Wildcats took care of business in the seventh inning, not allowing any hits nor runs, subsequently ending the game and sealing their victory.
The Wildcats will face the Brunswick Pirates Friday at 4 p.m. for a Region 1-AAAAAA doubleheader in Brunswick for the last two games of their regular season.
“We’re going to approach the games at Brunswick like it’s critical. We told the kids this week that we have to look at the game like it’s the first round of the playoffs,” said Shuman. “It’s our last chance to play Brunswick this season and we’re going to try to make a good impression.”
The Wildcats will begin the playoffs on May 2 against an opponent that has not been confirmed just yet. To prepare for the playoffs, the Wildcats will continue to take it one day and practice at a time.
The Jackets were officially eliminated from the state tournament when Bainbridge lost to Lee County on Tuesday.
Central (11-13, 4-9) will cap its season in Friday’s road doubleheader against Harris County, a team it fell to in mercy rule fashion on March 14.
“We just want to play well and play enthusiastic,” Central coach Chad Parkerson said. “We want to let those seniors go out with our best effort.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t make the playoffs. I wish we could’ve found a way to win some of those games earlier in the season. But that’s how it goes in the highly competitive region we play in.”
Times-Enterprise Sports Editor Daniel Kramer contributed to this story.