With the region 4-AA title hanging in the balance in the last week of the regular season, the Putnam County War Eagles took care of business last Friday by dispatching likely fourth seed Oglethorpe County 6-1.
The victory over Oglethorpe was significant because Jefferson County lost to Westside 10-3 on Friday, tying Putnam and Jefferson for first place in 4-AA with the top seed to be determined this week.
Head-to-head. On Tuesday, Putnam hosted Jefferson in a pivotal game and the results were not known as of this press time. However, on Friday, Putnam travels to Jefferson County for the last regular season game. All things region playoffs will be completely up in the air until the close of baseball business Friday night.
But last Friday, with the playoff standings clearly on the line against Oglethorpe, Putnam rode a dominating pitching performance from senior Austin Hadaway to victory. Combined with timely hitting and stellar defense, Putnam defeated Oglethorpe and maintained its position heading into this week.
Hadaway pitched a complete game giving up only five hits and one win with seven strikeouts in his first appearance since a pitching hand thumb injury sidelined him in recent weeks.
“For him to have an injury on his pitching hand and be able to come back from it and pitch like that was incredible,” said Putnam head coach Mike Phiel. “He was efficient, pitched well and controlled all three of his pitches.”
Putnam scratched out a run in the first inning on a fielder’s choice RBI by Chase Lupton drove in Jacob Grimes. In the fourth inning, Grimes doubled home Hadaway and a balk drove in Gerald Kilgore for a tenuous 3-1 advantage.
In the top of the sixth inning, Hadaway appeared to tire and Oglethorpe seized the opportunity with two hits and the tying runners on second and third base with only one out. Reaching way deep down inside, the savvy Hadaway promptly retired the next batter on a short pop-out to right followed by a strikeout to end the inning and the threat.
Badly needing some insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth, Putnam rose to the occasion. Grimes led off the inning and reached on an error by the Oglethorpe second baseman. Stepping to the plate, Kilgore, who struggled at the plate earlier in the game, found a hanging curveball and planted it in the woods behind the left field fence for a big 5-1 edge. Lupton came home with the sixth run on a wild pitch and the War Eagles moved to the seventh with a 6-1 lead.
No problem for Hadaway as he struck out two of three batters to complete the game and give Putnam a 11-1 record in region play.
The last week of the season is here and the Putnam County War Eagles are playing for a region championship. It’s not going to be easy but Phiel and his team is ready for this challenge they have been preparing for since Christmas.
“Two more to go,” said Phiel last Friday after the win. “In this game, you work and we started working out here in December with some voluntary workouts and we worked through February in the rain and cold and it comes down to the last weekend of the season and you put yourself in a position to play for a region championship.
“That is exciting. These kids have become a confident bunch. They believe in themselves and it is just fun to be a part of it.”