Bulldogs shut out Sumral in opener

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, May 6, 2008

BUDE — It has been 22-years since Franklin County last playedfor a South State Championship on the diamond. After Friday night,the Bulldogs are one game away from ending that long famine.

Led by an air-tight defense and some timely hitting by seniorsRyne Tutor, Ben McDowell, and Blaine Abernathy the Diamond Dawgspulled off a remarkable 3-0 shutout of defending South State 3Achampion Sumrall Friday night in The Swamp to take Game 1 of thebest-of-three, third round series.

“We’ve just got to win one more,” said a happy Diamond Dawgscoach Jeremy Loy, after the game. “We’ve been playing good baseballall season and now we’re one game away from South State.”

FC senior southpaw pitcher Ben McDowell proved to be the thornin Sumrall’s foot all night long with a crafty blend of fastballs,changeups, and curves to keep the Bobcats guessing. McDowell struckout four in going the distance for his eighth win and fifth shutoutof the season.

“I just did what I had to do to,” said McDowell following thegame. “We heard so much about Sumrall before the game, so we knewthey were good. But we also knew they could be beat.”

The loss, Sumrall’s first defeat by shutout this season, was byno means easy. The Bobcats mounted a late, seventh-inning rally,loading the bases with one out, before McDowell finished off thefinal two batters with a strikeout and a popup for the final out,that senior shortstop Ryne Tutor collected in his glove.

“That last pitch I threw was a two-seam fastball,” said the6-foot-2, 165-pound McDowell, recounting the final out. “I threw itas hard as I could, so he would pop it up.”

McDowell (8-2) threw 110 pitches on the night, walking onlythree batters and picking off two of them with a devilish move tofirst that kept Sumrall in check the entire game.

FC sophomore second baseman Hunter Hatcher and sophomore thirdbaseman Colton Laird provided some defensive stops themselves.Hatcher turned an unassisted, fifth-inning double play to get theDawgs out of a jam. Laird made three big stops at third. Seniorfirst baseman Blaine Abernathy collected the scoops.

“We were on top of our game tonight,” said Hatcher. “Our defensehas been making big plays all year. That’s what it takes,especially in the playoffs.”

The Bulldogs (24-5) scored two runs in the bottom of the firstto take control of the game. Blaine Abernathy belted a single andRyne Tutor a double, before junior Jordan Hunt scored Abernathyfrom third off a sacrifice fly. McDowell would next knock Tutor in,and FC had the lead.

Bobcats pitcher Jim Roseberry was saddled with the loss, despitestriking out four. He walked four and gave up two earned runs infive innings pitched for Sumrall (26-6).

“I’m proud of my guys,” said Loy. “We’re playing our hardest andleaving everything on the field.”