Regional baseball play kicked off with a bang Tuesday night as three different area teams were in action. Surprisingly, it was the smallest class and the two largest classes that got a jumpstart ahead of everyone else as Madison County (1A), Lincoln (5A), and Chiles (6A), fought to keep their seasons alive.
By the end of the night, only one team moved on to semifinals as Lincoln blew past Choctaw. Madison County and Chiles both lost tight matchups at home, ending their seasons. Here's how it all went down.
Two teams moving in opposite directions met up at Boot Hill Tuesday night for all the marbles in 1A Region 3 semifinals. Madison County was coming off a dominant 16-1 win over Sneads to win the district while Lafayette, who was once 14-0 this season, has gone 2-3 in its last five, which included a loss in district semifinals.
The Cowboys have been trending up and the Hornets down, but all of that changed from the first pitch. Lafayette tacked on four runs in the first three innings of the game while its pitcher, Jackson Ward, kept things steady from end the end. The Cowboys responded with two runs off a throwing error, but couldn't break Ward.
Ward froze the Madison County bats and eventually end the Cowboys' season, seeing Lafayette defeat Madison County, 4-2, to advance to the 1A-3 regional championship against Fort White on Friday. The Cowboys see their year end at 12-10.
"They played their guts out," Cowboys head coach Jason Fletcher said. "They played hard. We had a couple of errors that cost us in the first, but we picked up and squared up on an error that cost them in the third. The two earns they got were the difference. The way we were hitting the ball coming in I felt pretty confident, but Jackson Ward, hats off to that dude. He threw a heck of a ball game."
Ward gave the Cowboys nothing easy. Over six innings he allowed two runs on three hits, walked five, and struck out seven in the 25 batters he faced. There were only two real opportunities that Madison County was able to get him to crack. Junior JD Brayn doubled to the wall mid-game and junior Parker Copeland tripled in the seventh inning to give the Cowboys the last breath.
Copeland's triple gave Madison County some late-game momentum with only one out in the bottom of the seventh and finally got Ward over his pitch count. However, junior pitcher Coen Severance only continued the lockdown mound performance, picking up back-to-back Ks to end the game.
"It was a shot in the arm, but we just needed to do a better job of capitalizing on them," Fletcher said. "That was where we were on that."
Despite the loss, Bryan pitched a complete game allowing four runs on four hits and striking out 10 of the 29 batters he faced. On base, junior Jackson Kendrick and senior Blaydon Plain were walked twice, with Kendrick finding home once.
Madison County graduates nine seniors: Fisher Pike, Jahyren Lee, Mitch Rutherford, Pj Hodge, Rhett Rutherford, Tyrece Pryor, Plain, Delvin Boatman, and Ty Jarvis. It will return a hefty junior class eight next spring. Fletcher said that while the senior class meant a lot to the program, his looking forward to seeing what they'll do beyond baseball.
"A bunch of them have been with us since 10th graders, some were called up as ninth-graders and never went down," Fletcher said. "They're leaders on this team and more importantly are good, young men. They're going to go out in this community and be good husbands, fathers, and citizens. At the end of the day, that's what it's all about."
The Trojans' run through the postseason is alive and well as they showed how much they've grown in just a week. In their last meeting, a week to the day, Lincoln bested Choctaw 10-5. Tuesday night, the Trojans ended things in the fifth, shutting out the Indians, 10-0.
Prior to the start of the postseason, Lincoln was 8-17. Now, it's rattled off four straight wins as the No. 2 seed in 5A Region 1 and will host Pine Forest on Thursday for semifinals.
Sophomore Myles Bailey had the big bat for the Trojans, scoring two runs off of three hits, and was brought in three times for scores. Senior Dalton Kuhn continued to stay hot, recording an RBI of two off of one hit. On the night, Lincoln scored 10 runs on 10 hits.
On the mound, junior Kolten Leach played the bulk of the game, allowing no runs off of one hit and striking out six. Junior Clayton Nash played one inning striking out one en route to a win. The first pitch between the Trojans and Eagles is on Thursday at 7 p.m.
One of the biggest upsets in the state was pulled on the northside in Class 6A Region 1 as Chiles, who ran through its district to clinch the No. 2 seed in the region, was upset by seventh-seeded Spruce Creek in a narrow 1-0 finish.
It was a single from senior Henry Dickmann to score senior Ashton Griffis Nuger that proved to be enough in the end. Hawks pitcher senior Austin Asbill gave Chiles nothing to work with, allowing no runs off of two hits, walking one, and striking out four in the 25 batters he faced.
Both of Chiles's hits were singles, one from senior Chris Stanfield and the other from senior Dalton Knapp. Junior Bryce Jevyak pitched the bulk of the game, allowing one run off of six hits, walking one, and striking out four over six innings.
Chiles graduates 11 seniors: Parker McDonald, Stanfield, Bryce Long, Baylor Dunbar, Grant Gallagher, John Woo, Knapp, Andy Thies, Jaxon West, and Tag Williams. This was also the final game for 13-year head coach Dick Steed, who led Chiles to nine straight appearances at the FHSAA State Tournament from 2010 to 2019.
Jack Williams covers prep sports for Tallahassee Democrat. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jackgwilliams.