If there was one thing Winder-Barrow baseball coach Brian Smith had to pick to be excited about last weekend, it was his team’s pitching.
The Bulldoggs used nine guys on the mound and surrendered just six runs in three games over the course of Friday and Saturday as they defeated three fellow GHSA Class AAAAAA teams in their annual early-season trip to the Augusta area.
After winning 5-4 at perennial power Greenbrier on Friday night, the Bulldoggs (4-0) went to Evans High School on Saturday and shut out the host 4-0 and then throttled Effingham County 10-2 to cap off a strong weekend.
“We faced good competition and a great chance for some team bonding, all while playing very well,” Smith said Tuesday.
“We could see one or more of these teams down the road.”
Smith said the Bulldoggs entered the weekend with the plan to throw as many pitchers as possible as the team adjusts to the GHSA’s new pitch-count limitation rules. The strategy paid off and it didn’t take the Bulldogg arms long to find themselves in tight situations.
Daniel Buice started the Greenbrier game and left with one out in the fifth and his team ahead 5-4. Smith went to Darrell Woodall, who came in with a runner on base and got the final two outs of the inning to preserve the lead and get the game to Will Hardigree, who closed it out with a two-inning save.
“There was a lot of pressure there,” Smith said of Woodall being able to get the Bulldoggs out of the fifth-inning jam. “There was a loud dugout and a really tough environment. It felt like a playoff atmosphere.”
Smith went back to Woodall for the Saturday morning game against Evans, and the senior proceeded to throw six shutout innings before sophomore Austin Lockridge came in to close it out.
“Darrell had a very reasonable pitch count,” Smith said. “We like to preach forced contact and keeping the ball away from hard contact and he did that. There were a lot of lazy fly balls and ground balls, and we played really good defense behind him.”
Winder-Barrow sent five pitchers to the mound in the weekend finale against Effingham. Jackson Melton started the game and went two innings and was followed by Lance Sikes, Trent Maddox, Zack Smith and Sam Darling.
“To be able to pitch like that really excites me,” Smith said, “because several of those guys are young and not proven at the varsity level yet. So this was a great step in the right direction.”
But the Bulldoggs were also productive at the plate, scoring 19 runs in the three games. Outfielder Skylor Murphy led the way with six hits on the weekend. Beau Hanna had three hits and batted in three runs in the Effingham game, and Zack Smith had a pair of doubles against Evans.
“We scrapped hits together all weekend and found ways to score,” Smith said. “We just kept on grinding and were steadily consistent, no matter what the score was, so that was encouraging to see.”
Winder-Barrow returns to action Saturday when it hosts Peachtree Ridge in a doubleheader beginning at 2 p.m.
“They’re always pretty good so it should be more good competition for us,” Smith said.
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