The Bulldogs will have to settle for where it ended.
Piedmont’s first-ever trip to the state finals ended with eight errors, including five in Thursday’s decisive Game 2 of their best-of-3 series against Trinity. The Bulldogs fell 12-0 in six innings at Riverwalk Stadium.
This nearly 24 hours after they fell 5-4 in Wednesday’s series opener at Paterson Field.
“We just weren’t us today, which we haven’t been this whole series,” senior Landon Pruitt said. “Hats off to Trinity. They just beat us. They were better than us.”
Pruitt’s frustration showed through the eye black that had run down his scowling face.
To get here, Piedmont (29-11-1) had swept four playoff series, all at home. It marked the first time the Bulldogs advanced past the third round.
Everything seemed to fall into place, including the four chances Piedmont had to play postseason series on their new home field.
Once the Bulldogs got to Montgomery for the first time, everything seemed to fall apart.
Walks and three errors helped Trinity (29-13) score four runs in the first three innings Wednesday. That Piedmont outfielders lost two balls in the Paterson Field lights helped Trinity score two runs, including the decisive run.
But Piedmont rallied from a 4-1 deficit, and the game ended with the tying run on third base. The rally gave the Bulldogs a sense of confidence coming into Thursday’s game.
Then came another bad start.
“It’s one of those things,” Pruitt said. “Once things go bad, it’s just contagious.”
Trinity leadoff hitter Mark White got on when shortstop Chris Strott misplayed a line drive, and Trace Johnson followed by reaching on a fielder’s choice and throwing error by Pruitt, the second baseman.
Strott normally plays second base but moved because Cade Bradley, normally the shortstop, was the starting pitcher. Pruitt normally plays catcher.
Trinity scored two runs in the second inning when Pruitt misplayed Johnson’s two-out grounder with runners on second and third bases then overthrew catcher Matthew Strott.
Once again, the Bulldogs found themselves in a hole quickly, and it got deeper when Trinity scored five runs on six hits in the fourth inning.
Trinity did its part, putting the ball in play.
“We kind of put the pressure a little bit on them and got the momentum,” Trinity coach Ken Whittle said.
Once the ball was in play, Piedmont looked like a team facing the pressure of the state’s biggest stage for the first time.
Piedmont coach James Blanchard said new environs might have played a role.
“We played at home for four (series),” he said. “We’re used to our grass, our infield. You come here, and you play on two different fields, and it takes different bounces.”
Trinity made every error hurt, adding 14 hits. Catcher William Stabler led the way, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs, and White, the tournament MVP, went 2-for-5 with two RBIs.
Bradley (10-3) worked four innings, allowing eight runs (five earned).
Pruitt and Trevor Ford each managed one of Piedmont’s two hits against Trinity starter Allen Wood (10-0).
“He located his pitches great, and he’s a good pitcher,” Blanchard said. “We were a little down with the bats this week.
“Four playoff games (series), we’ve been unbelievable. We scored 54 runs in the first four playoff games. You’re in baseball long enough, it happens.”
While the Bulldogs might want to forget their two days in Montgomery, they won’t forget getting there. Their run included sweeps of Glencoe, White Plains, Winfield and Plainview.
“It’s been fun and something to look back on here in a couple of weeks as we go on into college,” Chris Strott said.
For Blanchard, who just completed his fourth season on the job and passed his one-year checkup after a battle with tonsil cancer, the focus is the future. Piedmont loses four senior regulars but return the majority of the team.
The Bulldogs’ junior varsity team went 25-3 and will bump up to a program that just made the state’s final series.
“I told these guys, ‘You have put Piedmont baseball on the map’,” Blanchard said. “People are not only going to talk about football and basketball, but they’re going to talk about baseball now.”