By: Rob Grubbs — sportalspace contributorFollow @sportalspace
May 3, 2018 (Peachtree City, GA) – One of the tenets of baseball, especially in the playoffs is that “Good pitching will always beat good hitting.” That was a perfect theory to test in the second round of the high school state playoffs as the Harris County Tigers traveled to Peachtree City to face the Starr’s Mill Panthers. The Tigers came into the second round averaging over six runs a game and scored 24 runs in their two game sweep of Ware County in the first round. But that came to a screeching halt on Thursday afternoon as the Panthers got dominant, complete game pitching performances from Hayes Heinecke and Dawson Sweatt and just enough run support to win two one-run ball games and advance.
Tiger leadoff hitter Timmy Brooks led off Game 1 with a single and would continue to be a thorn for the Panthers for the rest of the night. He ended up reaching on five of six plate appearances and his speed always made the Panther uneasy, but Heinecke was able to pitch around the hit with no damage. He wasn’t so lucky the second time, after two quick outs, Brooks legged out his second hit, stole second and then scored when Brandon Willoughby laced a hit up the middle that smacked Heinecke and ricocheted into left field to score the first run of the game and put the Tigers up.
It would be their last lead of the day, as the Panthers responded immediately in the bottom of the inning when the two freshman, Nate Kearns and Thad Ector each had back to back doubles to plate the tying run. They would take the lead in the bottom of the fourth, after Heinecke was robbed of a sure hit by Brooks at second, Mitchell Sutton started a two-out rally with a walk and then stole second to get into scoring positon, and Sweatt brought him home with a perfectly placed single between the shortstop and the leftfielder for a 2-1 lead.
It appeared the Panthers might get another run in the fifth, with Brian Port running on the pitch from first base, Charlie Mizzell drilled a line drive that Tiger third baseman Bryce Pittmon snared to end the inning and saved a sure score.
Heinecke didn’t need the extra run though. After giving up the RBI hit to Willoughby, he retired 13 out of the final 14 batter to close the game out. He finished with a four hitter, no walks and five strikeouts. Willoughby was the tough luck losing pitcher for Harris County, as his performance was equally as impressive.
In last week’s series win over Union Grove, the Panthers got a similar dominant performance from Heinecke but fell in game two, a trend that Head Coach Brent Moseley wanted to change. He sent Sweatt to the mound for game two. Sweatt was the winning pitcher just five days earlier in the round one series clincher at looked out to close out this one.
As good as Heinecke was in Game 1, Sweatt was just a little better. After the Tigers started the game with back to back singles, Jason Whearly hit a shot up the middle that Sweatt seemed to field behind his back and swiveled perfectly to start the double play. The play seemed to give Sweatt a different gear, after retiring the final batter in the first, his demeanor turned to domination. He struck out the next four batters in a row with his fastball that was popping the catcher’s mitt.
While the Panther freshman got the first run on the board in game one, senior Sutton gave Sweatt the only run he would need on a homerun to left field in the fifth that just cleared the fielder’s glove.
Brooks led off for the Tigers to start the sixth inning and was retired for the first time of the series when Sweatt got a strikeout on a wicked change up. The only batter to reach after that was Ryan Osteen who Sweatt hit with two outs, but he got the final out on an easy pop to the second baseman to complete the sweep.
Sweatt also pitched a four-hitter to match Heinecke and struck out 10 in a signature game for him. Afterwards, the Auburn signee Sweatt said, “My main goal was just to give my team the best chance to win, just do the best I can with what I have and go from there.”
The Panthers (23-9) will take on the winner of the Carrollton (27-8) vs Chamblee (25-9) on Wednesday. Coach Moseley will look to keep his pitchers hot into the next series.
Timmy Brooks 3-for-3, SB, R
Brandon Willoughby 1-for-2, RBI, SB 6IP 6H 2ER 2Ks
Hayes Heinecke 7IP 4H 1ER 5KS
Thad Ector 1-for-3 2B RB
Brian Port 1-for-3
Dawson Sweatt 2-for-3 RBI
Nate Kearns 1-for-2 2B R
Dawson Sweatt 7IP 4H 10Ks 2-for-3
Mitchell Sutton 1-for-3 HR RBI
Timmy Brooks 2-for-3
Noah Lee 7IP 4H 1ER 7Ks