HoCo and Etowah were set to begin their Final Four matchup yesterday afternoon at the Garden however… the weather had different plans as lightning and heavy rain swept over the ball park and the rain stayed around for several hours forcing the series to get pushed to today starting at 1pm. Game One opened up with Etowah plating the first run in the top of the first via a Will Curcio rbi single that ran in B. Adams
The Bears took a 2-1 lead in the last of the first when Andrew Dunford hit a two rbi single that ran in courtesy runner Christian Wahiwe and Drew Burress. The next two 1/2 innings went scoreless until the last of the fourth inning. HoCo’s Vick Gann hit a two rbi single that ran in courtesy runner Hudson Sherman and Elijah Smith to give the Bears a 4-1 lead going into the fifth inning.
The Eagles fought back with an rbi single that cut the gap down to 4-2 and a massive two rbi single to tie the game at 4 a piece with the runner being thrown out at second to end the inning. Etowah took a 5-4 lead via a sac fly in the first of the sixth.
Going into the last of the seventh… the Bears trailed the Eagles 5-4 and with one out on the board and a runner on first and second… HoCo shortstop Ethan Buffone hit a risky rbi bunt that barely ran in Christian Wahiwe to tie the game at 5. With the bases loaded and still one out on the board… catcher Eli Stephens walked off Game One via a hit by pitch that rounded the bases and running in Elijah Smith to give the Bears the 6-5 victory in Game One.
Andrew Dunford and Vick Gann led HoCo in rbis with two followed by Eli Stephens and Ethan Buffone with one each. D. Cole led Etowah in rbis with two followed by Will Curcio, J. Zehner, and J. Sabo with one. Bears SP Ryker Chavis had some struggles but not a lot on the mound surrendering five runs (all earned) on 11 hits, walking none, and striking out five in six innings of work.
Landon Tankersley came in to relieve Chavis in the seventh and surrendered no runs on no hits, walking one, and striking out none in one inning of relief work. Eagles SP C. Hughes surrendered four runs (all earned) on six hits, walking five, and striking out four in five and 2/3 innings of work. Reliever O. Bandy surrendered two runs (both earned) on three hits, walking one, and striking out one in 2/3 innings of relief work.
HoCo committed two errors while Etowah committed one error and the Bears took a 1-0 series lead going into Game Two.
HoCo was the designated visitor in Game Two so they batted first and went 1-2-3 to start the game. After having it’s first seven batters retired… Ethan Buffone gave the Bears their first hit of Game Two with one out in the top of the third but he made heavy contact with the Eagles’ first baseman and both went down in pain for a couple of minutes and thankfully… both were able to get up and continue playing the game.
Eli Stephens gave HoCo a 1-0 lead with an rbi single that ran in Ethan Buffone and later… the Bears plated a second run via a bases rounding walk. Etowah got on the board with a run in the last of the fourth when L. Stradley scored on a passed ball to cut the gap down to 2-1 HoCo.
Ethan Buffone hit a critical rbi double with two outs on the board in the first of the sixth that ran in Elijah Smith to give the Bears an insurance run late in Game Two. In the top half of the seventh….. a wild pitch was thrown by the Eagles and Andrew Dunford was able to steal third but got very aggressive and was able to successfully steal home after trying to decide to go home or back to third to plate HoCo’s fourth run of the game.
Drew Burress came in to relieve Andrew Dunford in the seventh and found two outs quickly with the bases empty and a 4-1 HoCo lead. Two Eagles players got on base via a close ball four walk followed by another walk. L. Stradley struck out swinging for out number three to give the Bears the 4-1 victory in Game Two and a 2-0 series sweep of the Etowah Eagles to send HoCo to the State Final.
Eli Stephens, Ethan Buffone, and Andrew Dunford led the Bears in rbis with one a piece while the Eagles had no rbis. HoCo SP Andrew Dunford surrendered one run (unearned) on six hits, walking one, and striking out three in six innings of work. Drew Burress surrendered no runs on no hits, walking two, and striking out one in one inning of relief work.
Etowah SP I. Griffin surrendered three runs (all earned) on six hits, walking four, and striking out one in six innings of work. M. Sharman relieved Griffin in the seventh and he surrendered one run (earned) on one hit, walking none, and striking out none in one inning of relief work. The Bears committed two errors while the Eagles committed one error.
HoCo’s defense in Game Two came up big at least four times as Andrew Dunford, Kai Decker, and Will Allen (twice) caught absolute missiles in their gloves to record critical outs and keep the Bears ahead throughout the game. HoCo improves to 34-6 overall and will take on the Pope Greyhounds in the AAAAAA Final Thursday Evening at 5pm at Coolray Field in Gwinnett County. Etowah finishes 2023 at 26-14 overall.
With their victory in Game Two…. the Bears won their 34th game of 2023 which is a new single season school record for wins but they have their eyes on a much bigger prize. HoCo finishes with a 21-2 record at the Garden in 2023.
Later… as the celebration started to dwindle down, seniors #5 Elijah Smith, #6 Ryker Chavis, #8 Drew Burress, #9 Hunter Chiappetta, and #99 (sometimes #27) Andrew Dunford all walked side-by-side to the ‘HC’ logo at center field and took a seat on the logo and reflected for a few minutes as they all realized that they have played their last game at the Garden.