MOULTRIE -- The Colquitt County baseball team turned to little-used Thomas Tripp on Tuesday to start the state championship baseball game and the junior right-hander pitched a game he -- and those who were at Ike Aultman Field -- will long remember.
Asked to try to hold down a team that had 50 home runs on the season, Tripp allowed just four hits -- and no home runs -- as the Packers defeated East Coweta 6-3 to fetch Colquitt County High its second state championship.
It also was the only 2002-2003 state championship won by a Region 1-AAAAA school in any sport.
"This was just as exciting as the first one," said Packers coach Jerry Croft, who led Colquitt County to its only other state championship in 1997. "Maybe more exciting.
"But it hasn't really sunk in yet. I'm just so happy for our guys, so proud of them. They were just so determined."
And Croft said the championship will mean even more to the players later.
"It's not just the ring," he said. "It's the bonding and the memories they'll have."
The game was needed to determine the championship after the Packers and Indians split a doubleheader on Monday.
That state championship series-opener had been scheduled for Friday, but was postponed by inclement weather after an inning.
Rescheduled for Saturday, the doubleheader was rained out again.
But once play began, the two teams played three tightly contested games.
The Packers won Monday's opener 3-2 on a two-out, run-scoring double by Will Southwell in the bottom of the the seventh.
East Coweta knotted the series with a 7-3 win in Monday's second game.
And for five innings on Tuesday, neither team was able to pull away.
The Packers scored first on a two-out home run by Max DeMott in the third.
It was the ninth homer of the season for the Packers catcher.
East Coweta, which took a team batting average of .372 into the series, had managed just one infield hit heading into the fifth inning.
A walk, a single by designated hitter Hank Askew and a ground out by Chris Davison tied the score.
But the Packers got that run back and more in the top of the sixth.
And Tripp was right in the middle of the rally.
Isaac Jackson opened the sixth with a single to center off Davison, who relieved East Coweta starter Brett Butts, who was injured running out an infield hit, in the fourth inning.
Johnathan Walker sacrificed Jackson to second. Brandon Connell followed with a ground ball to second that Tyler Brown booted, putting runners at first and third with one out.
East Coweta coach Franklin DeLoach then lifted Davison in favor of right-hander Jamie Spear, who started Monday's second game and pitched 5 1/3 innings.
Spear never retired a batter.
He walked Lee Henry to load the bases and Tripp followed with a line single to right to give the Packers the lead.
"I was just trying to go with it," said Tripp.
It was the second hit of the game for Tripp, who had just nine at bats all season heading into the game.
But the Packers were not through.
With the bases loaded, Southwell lined another single to right, driving in two more runs.
Cody Green followed with the Packers third straight base hit to right field to drive in another run.
Kyle Bedrosian, son of former major leaguer Steve Bedrosian, finally put out the fire, but the Packers had forged a 5-1 lead.
"It was time," said Colquitt County hitting coach Tony Kirkland of the four-run outburst.
The Packers had scored just six runs and had 13 hits in the Monday doubleheader.
"That was just a little lull we went through," Kirkland said.
Green, who hit second in a revamped batting order necessitated by Tripp's start, was not surprised by the uprising.
"We knew it would come," the senior pitcher-first baseman said. "It was just a matter of time."
Apparently energized, Tripp went out and retired the Indians on six pitches in the sixth.
The Packers got an insurance run in the top of the seventh when Jackson walked and Henry, in his final at bat as a Packer, doubled him home.
But after winning the coin toss and electing to be the home team, East Coweta had one last shot at Tripp in the bottom of the seventh.
And Indians went down fighting.
First baseman Taylor Walker, 0-for-7 in the series, singled to open the inning.
Tripp got Askew to pop to Southwell at short, but then hit pinch-hitter Marcus Herring with a pitch.
The second out came when Tripp fanned Kieron Pope, but East Coweta's leading hitter, Brad Eamus, who took a .452 batting average into the series, singled sharply to left to score Walker.
Tripp wild pitched a second run home, before getting a fastball by Lee Heaberlin for a called third strike to end the game.
Jerry Croft said there were no plans to relieve Tripp in the seventh.
"It was going to be his game, win or lose," Croft said.
The Packers had 11 hits, including two each by Green, Jackson, Henry and Tripp. Southwell, Eubanks and DeMott had the others.
East Coweta, the No. 3 team from Region 4, finishes the season with a 29-8 record. The Indians swept Glynn Academy, Lee County, Pope and Redan to reach the finals.
The Packers, the No. 2 team from Region 1-AAAAA, beat Jonesboro, McIntosh, Harrison and Fayette County en route to the finals.
The game was the final one for eight Colquitt County High seniors: DeMott, Connell, Jackson, Green, Henry, Eubanks, Keon Caldwell and Brian Gay.
The state championship was especially gratifying to Jackson, a three-year starting defensive lineman who endured a disappointing senior football season.
"It's just a great feeling to do what we did," said Jackson, a leader on both the football and baseball teams.
Jackson had two of his team's 11 hits on Tuesday and again strong defensively at third base, handling three chances flawlessly.
And he was quick to point out where much of the credit for both his, and the team's success, should go.
"I credit the coaches," Jackson said. "They made us do what we had to do in practice every day."
Jackson said he hopes to get a chance to play baseball at Albany State next year.
Brandon Connell, one of the team's leading postseason hitters, earned a starting job at second base for the Packers this season and made the most of it.
He like the team's makeup.
"We just had a good team," Connell said. "We picked each other up."
Connell's older brother Greg was one of the top hitters on the Valdosta State baseball team this spring.
"And he was there supporting me," the younger Connell said.
This Week's Circulars
MOULTRIE -- Mrs. Alice Fuller, 87 was born May 14, 1933 in Lauren County, Georgia. She departed this life on Sunday, April 11, 2021 at Magnolia Manor Pruitt Health. Graveside Services will be held 2:30 PM, Friday, April 23, 2021 at Strong Memorial Garden. Public Viewing will be observed 2:00…
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. [mdash] Linda Hamilton, 79, of Jacksonville, Florida, passed away on Monday, April 19, 2021 at Community Hospice of Jacksonville. Arrangements have been entrusted to Baker Funeral Home.
MOULTRIE [mdash] Terry Eugene Kelley, Sr., 69, of Moultrie, passed away on Friday, April 16, 2021, at Colquitt Regional Medical Center. Arrangements have been entrusted to Baker Funeral Home.
MOULTRIE [mdash] Benita Fran Powell Tillman, 61, of Moultrie, passed away on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at Archbold Medical Center in Thomasville. Arrangements have been entrusted to Baker Funeral Home.
MOULTRIE [mdash] Jose A. Galarza-Fuentes, 72, of Moultrie, passed away on Sunday, April 18, 2021 at Colquitt Regional Medical Center. Arrangements have been entrusted to Baker Funeral Home.
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