Frederica Academy’s baseball team had not reached the GISA state semifinals since Greg Roberts’ first stint in the Knights’ dugout. With Roberts returning to the school this year, the Knights are also returning to the semfinals.
Frederica advanced to the Final Four on Saturday, defeating defending state champion John Milledge Academy 9-8 in Game 2 of their best-of-three series to sweep the series 2-0.
“We’re still fighting that monster of getting runs and giving up runs every inning,” Roberts said. “We’ve done the little things right. We’ve played defense pretty well. We’ve pitched well. That’s a good team that was in it for the long haul last year and to send them packing in two games is great. It’s good be back in the Final Four.”
The Knights, the visiting team on the scoreboard in Game 2, struck first Saturday. Nic Dixon singled in the top of the second. Harry Veal followed with a ground ball that seemed destined to turn into a double play, but Milledge couldn’t get the out at second and the throw to first was thrown away, putting runners on second and third with one out.
JT Whaley followed with a fly out to center field that brought Dixon home to make it 1-0. The lead stayed that way until the fourth inning when the Knights put up three more runs on the scoreboard.
Dixon provided the spark again by drawing a walk. After a Veal sacrifice bunt, Whaley was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with one out.
That set the stage for Chandler Kicklighter, who launched a double deep into the right field gap to score both runners. Kicklighter would come home on a wild pitch to make it 4-0.
Eric McCall kept the Trojans scoreless for the first three innings — working out of a jam with two runners in the second inning and escaping a bases-loaded predicament in the third. Milledge finally pushed across two runs in the fourth without putting a ball out of the infield with its first three batters.
A hit-by-pitch, an error and a bunt single loaded the bases for the Trojans. Dustin Hostetter’s single to right field brought home one run with the other scoring on a fielder’s choice later in the inning.
Frederica responded with a big inning of its own. A walk to Henry Jamieson, followed by singles from Cameron Gardner and Dixon loaded the bases for the Knights.
Veal sliced a double down the left field line to plate two runners and make it 6-2. Kicklighter followed with a sacrifice bunt that plated two runners as Dixon scored from third and Veal flew around third without any hesitation to beat the throw back to home from the first baseman to make it 8-2.
Milledge’s Colton Brewer stopped the bleeding for a little bit in the bottom of the fifth, singling home a run to make it 8-3.
Frederica would add what turned out to be the game-winning run in the sixth inning with McCall coming around to score on an error after reaching on a walk to make it 9-3.
McCall would run into trouble in the bottom half of the sixth and be replaced on the mound by Henry Jamieson. McCall finished the game giving up four runs, three earned, on seven hits with five strikeouts.
“Eric didn’t have his great stuff, but that’s what you want from seniors and leaders is to go battle and give us a chance to win,” Roberts said.
Jamieson would give up a two-run single with two outs to Cody McCrary to make it 9-5, but McCrary was thrown out trying to stretch the single into a double to end the inning.
The Knights turned to Turner Jamieson to close out the game in the bottom of the seventh. But after giving up two doubles with a walk sandwiched in-between that cut the lead to three, Roberts made the quick change to Game 1 starter Trey Thompson.
Thompson recorded the first out of the inning with the help of an athletic play by third baseman Henry Jamieson, who threw out the runner while seated after making a diving stop.
“Henry is an exceptional athlete,” Roberts said. “He has the ability to do some crazy things at times and you’re in awe for a few seconds when you watch him. For as big as he is, he’s super athletic, moves well and throws well.”
A double by Hostetter brought home two more runs to make it 9-8, but Thompson buckled down and got the final two outs to preserve the win.
“I can’t say enough about him coming in and slamming the door after they got the momentum and battled their tails off,” Roberts said of Thompson.
The win sets up a semifinal showdown at Frederica with Region 3 champion Tiftarea Academy this week. The winner of the best-of-three series advances to state to face the winner of the Trinity Christian-Dublin/Trinity Christian-Sharpsburg semifinal.
“We’ve got a test coming from Tiftarea,” Roberts said. “They took care of their business in two games too.”