Whitewater’s championship dreams ended by Buford

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Ethan Gillis gets fired up after a big out. (Staff Photos by Christopher Dunn)

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Avery Roth is tagged out at home on a key play in game two.

Dreams of a state baseball championship didn’t come true for Whitewater as the Wildcats fell in two games Saturday to the Buford Wolves.
Though it comes as little consolation to the players and coaches right now, the runner-up finish is just the latest feather in the cap of a program on the rise both statewide and nationally. The Cats finished as runner-up last year as well after losing to Houston County in the championship series, then built on that momentum this season. The team was among 16 squads nationwide invited to participate in the prestigious USA Baseball National High School Invitational, then won 29 games this campaign, ranking as high as number 20 nationally in MaxPreps polling. The final game may be a bitter ending, but it won’t be the end for these Cats. Out of 14 seniors, nearly all have already signed to play college ball. They’ve paved the way for the next class to reach even newer heights and bring a trophy back to Fayetteville.
Whitewater’s bats had a hard time against Buford’s dynamite pitching, managing just one run and 11 hits in two games against the nation’s number nine team.
The Wildcats countered with their own stellar hurlers, as Jake Lee and Ethan Gillis again showed why they rank among the state’s best starting duos. Lee threw six innings in game one, striking out seven while allowing two runs, eight hits, and just one walk. Gillis battled in game two, allowing three runs and five hits while striking out three.
Game one was a 5-0 win for Buford, the sixth shutout of the postseason for the Wolves. Buford plated two runs in the third inning before Lee settled back in.
The Cats went to their pen in the seventh, getting mixed results. Hunter White faced one batter, getting a fly out to start the frame. After the next man gave up two hits, Jacob Henley would allow two hits, but strike out two with the bases loaded to limit the damage.
Whitewater would only manage four hits in the game, two of them in the bottom of the seventh as they tried desperately to rally. Connor Nalley and Nick Fink both got on base, but the following batters couldn’t get them home in the 5-0 loss.
Game two started in a much more promising manner as the Wildcats scored right out of the gate. Tyler Burdette led off with a single and moved over on a Brandon Bell double. Jabari Richards drove in one run with a single to stake his team to an early 1-0 lead.
Whitewater had a chance to pad their lead in the second inning but came up short. Avery Roth led off with a single and moved up on a sacrifice. Burdette roped the ball to centerfield, and Roth was sent home, but a perfect throw home caught him at the plate.
Buford tied the game up with one run in the bottom half of the second before pulling ahead to stay with two more runs in the third.
Ben Hughlon came out of the pen for the Cats in the fourth inning and pitched two and two-thirds scoreless innings.
Whitewater loaded the bases in the fifth, starting with a Nalley single and walks issued to Burdette and Bell, but the Wolves would get a big strikeout to kill the rally.
The bottom half of the sixth brought some fireworks outside of the box score as both benches cleared and players were ejected from both sides. With two men on, Nalley made a nice snag for one out then fired over to third base to catch another runner in a pickle. By the time the second out was made, another runner was standing at second base and shoved Tyler Doanes, sending both teams charging onto the field. It took a bit for the umpires to restore order and decide that one from each side would be leaving the game.
Whitewater tried one last time to get back in the game in the top of the seventh inning. Nalley led off with a single, but back-to-back strikeouts put the team’s backs against the wall. Doanes reached on an infield single, but another strikeout would end the game and the season for Whitewater in a 3-1 loss.

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About

Christopher Dunn has been the sports editor for Fayette Newspapers since 2011, in addition to running Fayette Game Day magazine. He is a graduate of Fayette County schools, as well as a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in journalism. Follow him on twitter @fayettesports.


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