By all accounts, it was an exhibition game. With a six-run lead in the ninth inning, Smiths Station catcher Austin Porter took left field for the Alabama all-stars. He was still wearing his catcher's mitt.
That was the kind of fun the local seniors were having at the third annual Georgia-Alabama All-Star game at Ragsdale Field, their last chance to suit up for a game as high schoolers.
Still, they wanted to win, and that was never more evident than in the bottom half of the ninth inning, when the Georgia all-stars plated two runs and threatened for more with the bases loaded. Alabama escaped the jam on a hard-hit ball by Tyler Maley (Harris County), however, and hung on for a 9-5 win.
"They were all excited about this game," coach Roy Dixon said. "The best part is that a bunch of humble kids who play for rival schools get to come together and compete like they did today. It was a lot of fun."
While the bats had plenty of success, the arms controlled the game for the better part of nine innings for Alabama's all-stars. Gage Young (Opelika) tossed two innings to open the game, allowing just one run on two hits and striking out two. Tyler Hodgdon (Smiths Station), who had pitched all of 11 innings for the Panthers during their season, threw innings three and four. He faced seven batters, retiring six and walking just one. He benefited from entering the game with a 4-1 lead, and earned the win for his team.
Chase Storm (Auburn) gave up a walk and a double to Mitchell Gaddis (Shaw) and Marcell Byrd (Hardaway) to open the fifth inning, but he retired the next six men that he faced. C.J. White (Jordan) and Bryce Delevie (Northside) each drove in runs on groundouts for the Georgia team in the fifth to make it a 5-3 game.
Lawson Humphries (Glenwood) made easy work of the Georgia batters in the seventh and eighth, facing seven batters and striking out four of them. The only batter to reach base against the Gators' ace was on a dropped third strike. Weston Dawson (Central) and Austin Mitchell (Beauregard) shared the ninth inning to close out the victory.
"I spent a lot of time trying to map it out and make it fun for the kids," Dixon said. "It was a great game, and we got a little lucky to pitch so well and were able to piece it all together in the ninth."
At the plate, Alabama broke things open in the third inning, during which Jonathan Smith (Auburn) had an RBI single and Troy Williams (Auburn) knocked a no-doubter solo home run. It scored another in the fifth on an RBI single from Jay Baker (Central) and plated four in the seventh. Young had a two-run homer in the inning, and Dawson had a two-RBI double.
Young finished the game 2-for-4 with a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored at the plate.
"I just came out to have a good time," he said. "I found a couple pitches and got a couple hits, but overall we just had a good time."
Dawson was also 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs, and Caleb Lynn (Smiths Station) finished 2-for-3 with a double.
For Georgia, it did most of its damage in the fifth and ninth innings. After White and Delevie's RBIs in the fifth cut the score to 5-3, Georgia fell back down 9-3. Marcell Byrd (Hardaway) knocked an RBI single in the ninth and Kurt Ornowski (Harris County) drove in a run with a walk to cut it to 9-5. With the bases loaded and two outs, Tyler Maley (Harris County) roped a pitch, but it was snared to end the game.
Byrd finished 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs to lead the Georgia offense.
Alabama 004 010 400--9 14 1
Georgia 010 020 002--5 6 1
WP--Tyler Hodgdon. LP--Drew Reeves. Leading hitters--Alabama, Gage Young 2-4, HR, 2 RBIs, 2 Rs, Weston Dawson 2-5, 2B, 2 RBIs, Caleb Lynn 2-3, 2B, Troy Williams 1-5, HR, RBI, Jay Baker 2-4, RBI, R; Georgia, Marcell Byrd 3-4, 2B, 2 RBIs, R, Casey Cobb 1-3, R, Jeffery Oravic 1-2, R.