Decatur advances to Sweet 16

Decatur High School swept Walnut Grove High School out of the GHSA 5A Baseball Playoffs April 28 at McCoy Park in Decatur with an 11-1 win in game one and a 10-5 win in extra innings in game two.

In game one, the Decatur Bulldogs downed Walnut Grove in just five innings behind a dominant pitching performance from Brady Jones and active bats from Decatur.

“Brady Jones really pitched well. He had command of his pitches, and when you do that and throw with a little bit of velocity, it makes it tough,” said Decatur Head Coach Robby Gilbert. “We also swung it well. When one through nine swing it that well, you’re really difficult to beat.”

The second win featured more drama than the first.

In the bottom of the first inning, Walnut Grove got a couple of early hits and stole home when Decatur mishandled a pitch. Walnut Grove base runners stole four bases in the inning, but Decatur held them to two runs and tied the score with a two-run inning in the top of the second.

Brayden Gordon scored Decatur’s first run of game two, and an RBI from James White tied the game a few at bats later.

Griffin Knabe started the fourth inning off with a single-shot homer, and White followed with another big play when he hit a two-run homer shortly after.

The bats died down for a few innings after that, leaving Decatur with a 5-3 lead over Walnut Grove heading into the bottom of the seventh inning.

Walnut Grove scored one run on a ground ball and kept the bases loaded in the seventh. Walnut Grove scored a game tying run, but Decatur’s Justin Weaver beat the game winning run with a throw to home, forcing Decatur and Walnut Grove to enter an extra inning.

The eighth inning was all Decatur, as the Bulldogs got on base with their first batter. Jones—after his pitching performance in game on—stepped to the plate and crushed a pitch for a two-run homer, putting the Bulldogs up 7-5.

Walnut Grove almost got out of the inning but faced Decatur freshman Levi Clark with two outs and two runners on base. Clark hit the Bulldogs fourth homerun of the night, giving the Bulldogs a 10-5 lead that they carried to victory after a scoreless eighth inning from Walnut Grove.

“We talk about it all the time. Keep fighting. This was game evidence,” said Gilbert. “We gave up two in the bottom of the seventh, and it easily could have been ball game. If Justin Weaver doesn’t make a great throw to home, it’s over. Then we came up and put up five in the top of the eighth… That makes you feel really good.”

Following the playoff wins over Walnut Grove, Decatur sits at 28-4 overall with a 16-0 record in region play. Gilbert said no one predicted Decatur to have such a good record after the Bulldogs lost nine seniors from last year’s team and started this season with a 4-3 record.

Since Decatur’s 4-3 start, the Bulldogs are 24-1 and riding a 21-game winning streak.

“We talk about competing and never giving in… That’s a testament to our kids. They fight. They’re a scrappy group. Not many people gave them credit or knew what we had this year, but [this team] finds a way to compete,” Gilbert added.

Even with their record, Gilbert said his team still faced a lot of doubt after playing a weaker region schedule. However, he said taking care of teams such as Walnut Grove—and Greater Atlanta Christian Academy April 22—proves they know how to win.

Gilbert also said that closing the regular season with a difficult opponent and starting the playoffs with a two-game series against a strong team will pay off this postseason by preparing his Bulldogs for other difficult matchups.

“I’ll even throw it back to when we played GAC [April 22]. That was the first time we played a seven-inning game in two weeks. It was good for us to see that kind of baseball again. It’s not easy, but you don’t want it to be easy,” said Gilbert.

Decatur begins its Sweet 16 series with Cartersville High School May 3 at McCoy Park. Specific start times are to be announced. Cartersville swept Chapel Hill High School 4-1 and 11-2 in round one.


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