By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Coosa Christian’s quest to advance to the second round of the Class 1A state baseball playoffs was stymied last Saturday (Apr. 22) by the Cherokee Indians in a 5-4 loss in the final game of the best-of-three series in Gadsden.
After being shut down for the majority of the game by Conqueror pitcher Caleb Garrett, the Indians exploded for three runs in the top of the sixth inning to take their first lead of the game.
Cherokee right fielder Jared Borden hit a two-RBI double off Garrett to tie the game and later scored the game-winning run on a hit by second baseman Trey LeFan during the next at-bat.
The Conquerors failed to garner a hit in the sixth and seventh innings, and their season came to an end.
Coosa head coach Joey Millican said his team had chances to win the game but didn’t make enough plays down the stretch.
“We didn’t have a couple plays that went our way, and that’s the way it goes,” Millican said. “They had some timely hits and were able to score a couple of runs, and then we couldn’t bounce back.”
Garrett picked up the loss in the final game despite not giving up a hit in the first three innings. He allowed seven hits and walked two, but Coosa’s woes were primarily at the plate in the final game. The Conquerors left 10 runners on base, including seven runners in scoring position.
“I think we had the bases loaded three times with less than two outs, and we couldn’t capitalize with the meat of our order up,” Millican said. “Any time you do that, it’s not good. We should’ve opened the game up and never did.”
Coosa jumped out to an early lead 2-0 in the first inning after Garrett started the game with a double. Second basemen Alex Holman hit a single to drive Garrett home, and shortstop Caden Davidson followed that up with another single to score Holman.
Cherokee cut the lead to 2-1 in the top of the fourth, but Coosa tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single from Juston Waits and a sacrifice fly from Holman.
The Indians scored one run in the top of the fifth to cut the lead to 4-2 before taking the lead for good in the top of the sixth.
On Friday, the Conquerors and Indians split a pair of games. Cherokee won the first game, 6-2, despite 11 strikeouts in the loss from Coosa pitcher Caden Davidson.
Coosa struck first in the bottom of the first inning on an RBI single from catcher Ashton Clemmons that scored Davidson. Cherokee tied the game in the top of the third, but the Conquerors retook the lead on an RBI single from Carston Lipscomb that scored Jackson Justus.
Coosa failed to generate any offense for the remainder of the game, however, and Cherokee scored three runs in the top of the fourth inning to take a 4-2 lead. The Indians added two more runs in the top of the sixth for the 6-2 final.
The Coosa offense awakened in the second game of the doubleheader.
Juston Waits hit another RBI single in the top of the second inning that scored Clemmons and smacked hit another RBI single in the top of the third. Clemmons hit an RBI double in the third, and Jackson Justus hit an RBI triple to give Coosa a 4-0 lead.
Justus was dominant at the plate and on the mound for the Conquerors in game two of the series. On the mound, Justus carried a no hitter into the bottom of the fifth inning. He struck out five and gave up only two runs in a 10-2 win for Coosa. At the plate, Justus went 2-4 with a triple and three RBIs and two runs scored.
Caden Davidson also had his best game at the plate during the second game. He finished 3-5 with a double, one RBI and three runs scored. He was Coosa’s most efficient batter throughout the series as he finished 7-for-13 with two RBI.
Clemmons was 2-3 with a double, two RBI and two runs scored.
Coosa finished the year with a 25-6 overall record.
Millican said he told his players – especially his senior class – how much he cared for them after the game.
“First of all, I tell them I love them,” he said. “Because they’re a great bunch of guys, great Christian young men. No matter what happens in baseball, they’re going to do well in life because they’re a great bunch of kids.
“I told them that sometimes it doesn’t go your way. You have to keep your head up, move on and get to the next step in your life, and now is that time for them. They’ll do well, and I’m going to miss them. It was a great season.”
Cherokee (21-9) advances to the second round, where the Indians will host Cedar Bluff.