Riding high from a big region sweep of Rabun County on the road one week earlier, the Putnam County War Eagles had a golden opportunity to grab a seat high atop the Region 8-AA perch last Friday with athletic activity suspensions from the coronavirus looming the next day but fumbled the chance to establish a firm spot with the future of spring baseball in limbo.
Facing a formidable Elbert County team at home in a Friday night twin bill, the makings for a big night were in place but miscues, base running blunders and missed opportunities plagued Putnam throughout the night as Elbert swept the doubleheader 8-7 and 5-2, leaving the War Eagles with a 3-3 record in the region as play was halted for the foreseeable future.
Putnam spotted Elbert four runs in the first inning and two in the second inning and suddenly found itself trailing 6-2 after two innings and playing catch-up ball suddenly appearing on the menu.
With only one Elbert hit in the first frame, three errors and a balk proved costly. Had it not been for a dandy pickoff move by pitcher Brett Pettit in conjunction with second baseman Jase Wilson and third sacker Chase Lupton, there’s no telling what further damage might have been done.
The War Eagles didn’t quit and pecked away at the Elbert lead, garnering one run in each inning after scoring two in the first but you have to hold the opponents on your comeback and thusly, Putnam allowed two runs in the second, one in the third and one more in the fourth to trail 8-4.
“We gave that game to them. I’m not taking anything away from them, they are a good team, but we spotted them four runs in the first inning,” said Putnam head coach Ben Skinner. “We made seven or eight errors and you can’t do that against a good baseball team. Our older guys have to be more potent at the beginning of the game. We had two big base running mistakes with two seniors and you can’t have that against a good team.”
Scratching and clawing, Putnam had a chance in the fifth to really close the gap but stranded three runners with only one run and picked up another in the sixth but ran out of gas in the seventh and fell 8-7.
“We should have scored two more runs and that is disheartening with older kids making the errors like that,” said Skinner. “We can beat this team. They know it. We know it.”
With a grand chance to earn a split in the second game with Austin Hadaway on the mound, Putnam held Elbert scoreless through two innings but an error, a hit batsman and a balk helped Elbert plate a run to cut Putnam’s lead to 2-1 in the top of the third. The War Eagles jumped out front 2-0 on a hit and two Elbert errors in the bottom of the second.
Much to the War Eagles’ chagrin, the bats went silent and Putnam was able to generate only four singles the rest of the way including the side being struck out in the bottom of the seventh after Elbert plated four runs in the top half of the final frame.
Elbert sent eight men to the plate with only two hits but two errors and a wild pitch spelled trouble for the War Eagles as Elbert moved out front 5-2 and held on for the win.
“We had two games we could have won,” said a less-than-enthused Skinner after being tossed for arguing in the decisive Elbert seventh. “It just didn’t go our way. I’m not going to blame it on anybody but ourselves. We all have to do better, including me. The wheels came off on us at the very end there and we just have to work through that.”