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Pirates advance to Elite 8 in state

The Pirates advanced to the Elite 8 of state playoffs after three thrilling games last week. The victories on Wednesday and Thursday pushed the Pirates to the next round as they host the GHSA playoffs this coming week. They hosted games against Greater Atlanta Christian Tuesday, May 10 in Zebulon with games at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. after the Journal Reporter’s deadline. 

“Baseball is a hard game to play, and it is an even harder game to predict. The Sonoraville Phoenix came to Zebulon on Wednesday, May 4, 2022, with something to prove. What would ensue over the next two days and three games of baseball was a series lauded as one of the best in the state,” said coach Craig Chatman. 

The first game of the Wednesday double-header started off as a defensive struggle the way everyone believed it would. Trevor Childers was the starter for Phoenix and Mason Trucks got the start on the  mound for the Pirates. Trucks was great on the mound. He gave up three runs, one earned run and struck out seven in the complete game performance. However, Lyles matched him pitch for pitch. 

Sonoraville struck first with a run in the top of the third inning. The Pirates answered back with a run in the bottom half of the inning of a sacrifice fly by Zane Axleberg, scoring Ridge Smith who had doubled to start the inning.  The game remained tied until the Phoenix broke through with two outs in the top of the sixth with two unearned runs. Phoenix scored courtesy of a walk, catchers’ interference, a bad hop single and an infield hit. 

The Pirates were not able to put together a rally with their last six outs and Sonoraville was able to grab the 3-1 victory and the 1-0 series lead. With the win, Childers was able to push his record to 11-0 on the season.  

The night cap was do or die for the Pirates for the 2022 season. With the season on the line, the Pirates turned to senior and Kennesaw State commit Braden Osbolt to right the ship. Osbolt drove in the first run of the game in the top of the first inning and then proceeded to throw a one-hit shut-out victory. Mason Trucks went four for four at the plate with three singles and one double. He drove in two of the five runs and Kaleb Hammond also drove in two runs for the Pirates. 

Coleman Johnson was stellar defensively and the Pirates played a much more Pike County like game in game two. 

The victory for Osbolt and the Pirates pushed the series to the decisive game three. Zach Lyles, the defensive star of game one for Phoenix, was the loser on the mound. Lyles only threw 34 pitches and did not have his best stuff.  

For the first five innings of game three on Thursday afternoon, everything was going according to plan for the Pike County team, staff and fans. Braden Osbolt, Kaleb Hammond, Mason Trucks, Josh Buffington and Coleman Johnson contributed to a 4-0 lead and Trevor Bagwell was cruising on the mound. Then in the top of the sixth inning, back-to-back hits got the Phoenix in position to score for the first time in 13 innings. After a ground out to Kole Hammond left runners at first and third with one out, the Phoenix were able to load the bases and earn their first run of the game on a bases loaded walk. The flood gates opened at that point and the top of the sixth inning ended with the Phoenix leading the Pirates 7-4. The Pirates trailed by three with six outs remaining in their season, and no one in the dugout flinched. After the first batter of the inning was retired, walks to Ridge Smith and Zane Axleberg brought Josh Buffington to the plate. Buffington hit a sharp single to right center that scored Smith and reduced the lead to 7-5. Coleman Johnson was the next hitter up and he lined a single to left that scored Axleberg and moved Buffington to second. The next hitter was Kole Hammond, and his fly ball to right moved Buffington to third base with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. With Braden Osbolt at the plate and a 0-1 count, Josh Buffington stole home to tie the game at seven each! Kole Hammond pitched a lock down top of the seventh inning and when Josh Buffington reached on an error with the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning, the Pirates had completed the comeback to win 8-7. 

The game three winner was Kole Hammond who threw one and 2/3 innings of relief. The tough luck loser for the Phoenix was once again Zach Lyles. 

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