LAWRENCEVILLE — Call Heritage’s Thursday night road contest at Coolray Field a glorified scrimmage.
Taking on the No. 1 ranked team in Class AAAAAA, Winder-Barrow, the Patriots found themselves caught in the middle of a 3-game series with Lakeside with no interest of throwing their top arms on the mound.
With their top two arms, Griffin Holcombe and Nick Watson-Garcia both earning victories over Lakeside Tuesday night and bullpen specialist Darryl Buggs tossing three innings as well, Ramsey called upon four brand new pitchers Thursday night, all of which were making their season debuts.
For two, they were making their varsity debuts on the bump.
In the end, the Patriots fell to the Bulldoggs, 4-3, but after holding their opposition to just four runs, their third-fewest run total of the season, head coach Shane Ramsey said it was an effort to be proud of.
“Winder-Barrow is a really good and we talked to our pitchers beforehand,” Ramsey said. “All I wanted them to do was to compete and give us a chance. All of them did that tonight. For some of them, it was their first time on a varsity mound. But because they had prepared leading into that, they came in and competed. I’m proud of my guys.”
Senior Ray Joseph made the start for the Patriots, tossing two innings of 3-run ball. The Bulldoggs struck for two first-inning runs, one of which was unearned. Joseph finished the night with two strikeouts and turned it over to Cole Smith, a junior, who was making his varsity debut on the mound.
Smith pitched one inning and allowed one hit and no runs.
Zekiah Gibbs, who pitched in 2018 as a sophomore, made his 2019 debut on the mound for the Patriots and was lights out. The junior breezed through two innings, allowing no runs to cross the plate while striking out two.
Freshman Josh Smith pitched the final inning for the Patriots, allowing two hits and one run. He finished his outing with back-to-back strikeouts.
“Anytime you get a chance to play a team like Winder-Barrow, you want your kids to compete,” Ramsey said. “You want them to rise to the occasion and not be afraid of the moment. And we were not. They took it upon themselves to be as good as our other arms. I don’t like losing, but to compete with a team like that, I’m proud of them.”
Offensively, the Patriots didn’t record a hit offensively until the fifth inning when senior Calabria Atkins bounced a ball into left field that scored Gibbs from third. At that point, the Patriots trailed the Bulldoggs 3-1.
After going down in order in the sixth, the third time in four innings, the Patriots stepped up to the plate in the top of the seventh needing to score three runs to tie.
Henry Clay started the inning off with a single to left off of Brady House, who delivered a 93-MPH pitch to the senior on the second pitch of the at-bat. After a Holcombe strikeout, Gibbs lined a ball into left.
Smith followed with a lineout to shortstop, but after a hit-by-pitch grated to Atkins, Buggs stepped into the box with the bases loaded and two outs.The junior came threw, lining a ball down the third base line that scored two.
With runners on second and third trailing 4-3, Joseph bounced out to third base to end the game.
“We had the go-ahead run at second base and the tying run at third in the top of the seventh,” Ramsey said. “We’re getting there. We looked really good Tuesday and I expect that when we go out there tomorrow, we’re going to look good again. We saw some good arms tonight, but we competed.”
The Patriots will play host to Lakeside tomorrow night in Game 3 of the series.