Conyers CONYERS — Wednesday against Salem, the Heritage baseball team had to erase a five-run deficit and needed two runs in the sixth inning to pull out a victory. Facing its crosstown rival again Friday, the Patriots, thanks to Matt Studdard and Domenic Bazzani, had a much easier time.
Studdard tossed 6 1/3 innings of three-hit ball and Bazzani drove in five runs and was a home run short of the cycle as Heritage completed a season sweep with an 8-2 win.
Heritage (4-13, 3-5 Region 8-AAAAA) continued its recent dominance of Salem (8-10, 0-8), winning for the seventh consecutive time in the series. For the host Seminoles, Friday’s setback was their sixth consecutive loss and the Conyers school is just 1-10 since starting the year 7-0.
Studdard, just a freshman, allowed just three singles and struck out 10 in a 123-pitch effort. The right-hander worked around an error and two-out walk in the second, allowed a bloop single by Jordan Scott in the fifth, which got Salem its first run of the night, and had a run score after he left the game in the seventh, but otherwise had his way with the Seminoles’ offense.
“He’s been great for us all year long,” Heritage coach Jason Borcherding said. “He’s been probably the most consistent pitcher we have, that we know, game in and game out, what we’re going to get from him. This hasn’t been a surprise; he’s pretty special. He’s got a chance to be an upper-tier guy later on down the road.”
Heritage, which at home Wednesday scored a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth to beat Salem, jumped on top for good right away Friday with an unearned run in the top of the first.
Ryan Sutton’s high fly ball to dead center field was dropped by Akil Baddoo and Sutton raced all the way to third with one out. Salem’s defense helped out again on Bazzani’s first plate appearance as Baddoo and Teriyan Rocker couldn’t decide who should go after Bazzani’s fly ball and it fell for an RBI-double to put Heritage up 1-0.
The Patriots didn’t need as much help from the Salem defense in an 11-batter fourth. After a one-out single from Israel Zackery and Jalen Martin’s double, an infield error loaded the bases. Salem got an out at the plate on a comebacker, but Bazzani sat on a 2-0 fastball and ripped a three-run triple to make it a 4-0 game.
“At that point, (Bazzani’s triple) kind of was a gut kick to kind of break it open,” Borcherding said. “Generally when we’re 2-0 in that situation, we’re looking for a 2-0 fastball, looking for something to drive. He stuck to the game plan like he should and saw a good 2-0 fastball and drove it.”
Studdard helped his own cause, driving in Bazzani with a rope single down the left field line, which chased Salem starter and losing pitcher Tiwuan Head (3 2/3 innings pitched, four earned runs), and a bases loaded hit batsman put Heritage up 6-0.
After Bazzani got his third and final hit of the night to drive in another run and make it 7-0 in the top of the fifth, Salem finally got to Studdard in the bottom half. Garrett Needham was hit by a pitch to start the inning, Alex Fernatt singled and Needham and pinch-runner Ian Moon moved up to second and third on Studdard’s wild pitch. Scott followed with a bloop to right field that a diving Sutton just missed, chasing home Needham to spoil the shutout bid. Studdard wasn’t fazed, though, and he struck out Reed Hill and pinch-hitter Demarcus Reaves to end the threat.
“He’s been impressive all year,” Borcherding said of Studdard.
Heritage travels to Athens Monday for a 5:55 p.m. game with Clarke Central, while Salem remains at home with a game against Apalachee at 5:55 p.m.