Bobcats take down Saint James for berth in state quarterfinals

Published 1:00 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2024

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Timely hitting and solid pitching guided Opp to a sweep at Saint James, 7-4 and 7-2, in the second round of the 3A state baseball playoffs on Friday, April 26.

The Bobcats pushed their record to 21-7, while the Trojans ended the year at 19-13.

Game 1: Opp 7, Saint James 4
Charles Cutler retired the first two batters in the top of the first before Grady Patterson doubled to right. Nelson Hall followed with an RBI double as courtesy runner Zeb Green scored for an early 1-0 lead. Clinton Houser led off the home half with a double and took third when Caden Anderson laid down a sacrifice bunt. Colby Ballard then induced a groundout to third and struck out Charles Cutler to end the frame.

Landon Langley and Ballard earned consecutive one-out singles in the visiting second. Opp took a two-run lead when Langley scored on an error. Cole Anderson was hit by a pitch in the bottom half but was called out due to interference. Ballard maintained his 2-0 lead over Saint James when Emmett Rasmussen grounded out.

Patterson drew a one-out walk in the third as Porter Nelson and Nolan Brown stroked back-to-back singles. Green and Nelson scored on an error and gave the Bobcats a 4-0 lead. Benton Offord earned a leadoff free pass as Houser knocked a single and set up runners at the corners. Anderson scored Offord with the first run, and Cutler plated Houser with an RBI single. Anderson brought the Trojans within 4-3 after a miscue, but Ballard avoided further trouble thanks to a fly out and strikeout.

Following a scoreless fourth from both sides, Opp added an insurance run in the top of the fifth. Nelson reached on a dropped third strike, took second on an error, and stole third. Langley rolled into a force play but drove home Nelson. Ballard made quick work of Saint James with three outs on just four pitches and kept the score 5-3 after five.

Riley Day lined a double in the visiting sixth and advanced to third on a single from Cash Harrell. Rasmussen nearly escaped the threat unscathed, but an RBI single by Hall gave the Bobcats a 7-3 lead. Jimmy Dickens stroked an RBI single to center as Conner Johnston found the plate and cut the deficit to three. The Trojans then loaded the bases with two outs, but Ballard fanned Anderson as the score stayed 7-4 at the end of six.

Both teams went 1-2-3 in the seventh as the first game came to an end. Hall went 2-for-4 and had three RBIs for Opp. Ballard was also 2-for-4 and picked up the complete-game win allowing two earned runs on six hits and striking out six. Houser was 2-for-3 with a run for Saint James.

Game 2: Opp 7, Saint James 2
Houser earned a leadoff walk in the second contest before Anderson reached on an error. After a double steal, Houser scored the initial run on another miscue. Harrell stranded runners at the corners with a groundout. Tabor Offord worked around a two-out walk to Patterson and held a 1-0 lead after one inning of play.

Harrell set down the Trojans in order on just nine pitches in the second. Offord allowed a single in his half but struck out the side as the Bobcats trailed 1-0 at the end of two.

Harrell struck out two opposing batters in the top of the third before errors plagued Saint James in the bottom half. Day reached third on an error and scored the tying run when Harrell took first on a mistake. Courtesy runner Holt Blair moved to second on a passed ball before Patterson and Hall each walked. Blair hustled home on a passed ball, while Brown delivered a two-run single and gave Opp a 4-1 lead after three innings.

Anderson reached on a defensive miscue in the fourth as Braylen Corley took a free pass. Wils Johnson rolled into an inning-ending double play on the next pitch. Harrell and Patterson were both hit by a pitch with two outs before a groundout closed the frame.

The Trojans continued to struggle at the plate as Harrell needed only nine pitches for a scoreless fifth. Nelson led off the bottom half with a double to right and was replaced by pinch runner Matthew Morgan. Morgan scored on a wild pitch with two outs as the Bobcats took a 5-1 lead at the end of five innings.

Offord doubled with one out in the top of the sixth but was stranded there. Patterson took a one-out walk as Green advanced to third when Hall singled to right. Green stole home before a wild pitch sent Hall to the plate for a 7-1 lead after six.

Saint James did not go quietly in the seventh and loaded the bases on a walk and two hit batters. Johnson scored the last run of the night before Nelson went to the mound and induced a game-ending fly out.

Brown finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs, and Hall went 1-for-3 and scored two runs. Nelson was 1-for-4. Harrell notched the win and allowed one earned run on one hit with four strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. Offord had a 1-for-4 outing at the plate.

Opp will travel to Thomasville (26-4) for a third-round series beginning Thursday, May 2, at 5 p.m.