Rice tosses shutout; Dragons advance to Sweet 16

PHS Baseball, Team FYN Sports

Jasper Ga — It was win or go home on Tuesday, April 25th for both the Pickens Dragons and Hart County Bulldogs as they took the field for the 3rd and final game of their best of three series in the first round of the GHSA 3A State Baseball Tournament. The Bulldogs, won game 1, 4-3 in 9 innings, while the Dragons won game 2, 5-4 on Monday. The Dragons, got a complete game shutout from Freshman A.J. Rice as they won game 3, 8-0.


In the top of the first, Rice tossed a 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout and 2 ground outs to send it to the bottom of the inning. In the bottom of the frame, the Dragons, went down in order also with a fly out and 2 ground outs to send it to the second with the game tied at 0.


In the top of the second, Rice needed 12 pitches to get a pop out and 2 more ground outs in another clean inning. In the bottom half of the inning, designated hitter Tyler Payne, led off with a single. Dawson Holland, would move pitch runner Ezra Faber over to 2nd with a sacrifice bunt. After Kam Jenkins reached on a walk, ’23 Young Harris commit Evan Giddens, came through with a 2-out RBI single to bring in Faber to make it 1-0 Dragons going to the third.


In the top of the third, the Bulldogs, picked up their first base runner and first hit of the game with a 1-out single. The Bulldogs, would then get another runner on after being hit with a pitch with 2-out. Rice, as he’s done all season it seems, kept his composure and was able to induce a ground out to 3rd to send it to the bottom of the third. In the bottom of the third, ’24 Ga Tech commit Connor Shouse, led off by drawing a walk.

Trace Ledbetter, followed that up by reaching on a fielding error to put runners at 1st and 2nd. Trey Payne, would then be hit by a pitch to load the bases with nobody out. Shouse, would come in to score on a wild pitch. Ledbetter and Trey Payne would advance to 2nd and 3rd on the same pitch. Tyler Payne, would reach on a full count walk to load the bases again.

Holland, would reach on a fielder’s choice as Ledbetter would be thrown out at home after a grounder to 3rd for the first out. The Bulldogs, got out of the jam with only the 1 run given up as they induced an inning ending double play. Going to the fourth, the Dragons, now led the Bulldogs, 2-0.


In the top of the fourth, Rice, found himself in a little bit of a jam again as he gave up a single, and then hit a batter with 1-out. His defense, which had been making plays behind him all game, got some more help from them as his Freshman battery mate Jenkins, threw out a runner trying to steal 3rd for the 2nd out. Rice, finished off the top of the fourth in strong fashion with his 2nd strikeout to send it to the bottom of the frame.

In the bottom of the fourth, Giddens and Colby Brooks, both reached on back to back fielding errors with 1-out. Shouse, would then get hit with a pitch on an 0-2 count to load the bases. Giddens, would come in to score on a fielder’s choice by Ledbetter. Ledbetter, would catch the Bulldogs off guard and steal 2nd. Trey Payne, would then drive in Brooks and Ledbetter with a single to make it 5-0 Dragons going to the fifth.


In the top of the fifth, Rice, picked up his 3rd strikeout and 2 ground outs in a 9-pitch top half of the fifth. In the bottom of the fifth, Sam Hammontree, pitch hitting for James Tilley, sent the first pitch he saw down the left field line for a 2-out double. Tilley, would then re-enter to run for Hammontree. Giddens, drove in Tilley with an RBI single to  make it 6-0 Dragons going to the sixth.


In the top of the sixth, after giving up a lead off single, Rice, picked up his 4th strikeout, a ground out, and a fly out to send it to the bottom of the inning. In the bottom of the sixth, Lebetter, reached on a 1-out single. Davin Abernathy, would come in to pitch run for Ledbetter. Abernathy, would then get to 2nd on a wild pitch. Trey Payne, would reach base with a single. Abernathy and Payne, would then advance on a wild pitch.

With Senior Harlan Will at the plate, he  would drive in both Abernathy and Payne with a 2-RBI double to make it 8-0 Dragons going to the seventh.


In the top of the seventh, Rice, ended his very impressive outing with a 1-2-3 frame as Shouse made three great plays at short for all three outs. The Dragons, get the win 8-0 in game 3 to take the series, 2-1.


Stats for the Dragons:

Connor Shouse: 1 walk, 1 hit by pitch, and 1 run scored

Trace Ledbetter: 1-4 with a single, and 1 run scored

Trey Payne: 1-2 with a single, 2 hit by pitch, and 1 run scored

Tyler Payne: 1-2 with a single, and 1 walk

Harlan Will: 1-1 with a double and 2 RBI

Dawson Holland: 1 sacrifice bunt

Kam Jenkins: 1 walk and 1 runner thrown out

Sam Hammontree: 1-1 with a double

Evan Giddens: 2-3 with 2 singles, 2 RBI, and 1 run scored

Colby Brooks: 1 run scored

Davin Abernathy: 1 run scored

Ezra Faber: 1 run scored

James Tilley: 1 run scored

A.J. Rice: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 HBP, 4 K on 89 pitches


The Dragons, will now look towards Saturday, April 29th as they begin a best of three series with the Gordon Lee Trojans with a doubleheader. The Trojans, are representing region 6 as the #2 seed. They are 20-8 overall. The Trojans, swept Cedar Grove in the first round to get to this point. It should be an entertaining series between a pair of good teams.

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