Every time a Marion County player came to bat in the weekend series against Ragland, those words could be heard coming from the Red Raider dugout.
When the smoke had cleared over the two days and three games, it was the Ragland players, coaches and fans saying, “Oh yeah.”
The Purple Devils defeated Marion County 2-1 in the best-of-three series in the opening round of the AHSAA state playoffs.
Ragland 10, Marion County 0
The first game was all Ragland as Scotty Smith tossed a three-hit shutout in the 10-0 win. Smith improved to 6-2 on the season and he struck out eight.
The Purple Devils got things started early as in the bottom of the first inning, Nick Daniels was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on an RBI-single by Nick Smith.
Ragland erupted for four runs in the bottom of the third to make it 5-0.
Scotty Smith singled, Karson Winn was hit by a pitch and Daniels drove in Smith with a single to make it 2-0. Nick Smith followed with a two-run double scoring Winn and Daniels. Keshawn Killings drove in Nick Smith with a fielder’s choice, making it 5-0.
In the home half of the fifth inning, Winn singled, stole second and went to third base after the throw from catcher Collin Roberts ended up in centerfield. After Daniels walked, Nick Smith had an RBI-single to score Winn. Daniels then scored on a balk by Red Raider pitcher Andrew Gray, making it 7-0.
The Red Raiders had their best scoring opportunity in the sixth as Roberts singled to right and Deshawn Riebeshel reached on an error by shortstop Nick Smith with no outs.
After Ben Crow flied out to right for the first out, some controversy took place on the field. Sean Wallace hit a ground ball to second baseman Riley Day, who threw to second to Nick Smith and force Riebeshel for the second out. Smith was unable to get his throw off to first, but one of the umpires said Riebeshel interfered with Smith and the umpire called Wallace out at first to end the inning.
Ragland scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth to end the first game at 10-0.
Day singled and a bad throw to first put him on second base. Jaylen Brewster had a bunt single and Scotty Smith followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Day. Winn drilled a double to the gap scoring Brewster, and then Winn scored the final run of the game on a single by Daniels.
Gray suffered the loss. He worked five and two-thirds innings, giving up six hits and striking out two.
Marion County 13, Ragland 5
After being shutout in the first game, Marion County exploded for 13 runs in the nightcap, beating the Purple Devils 13-5. The Red Raiders scored seven runs in the bottom of the third to break a 2-2 tie, and force a third and deciding game Saturday.
In the bottom of the first inning, Roberts singled, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. He later scored on a sacrifice fly by Wallace to make it 1-0.
Marion County added another run in the second inning as Gray was hit by a pitch, and Collin Jackson followed with an infield hit. Dorryl Swanigan walked to load the bases. Roberts reached on a fielder’s choice as third baseman Daniels threw out Gray at home. Jackson then scored on a wild pitch from Winn, who had come on in relief of Nick Smith to start the second inning.
Another wild pitch from Winn sent Swanigan streaking home from third base, but Killings gathered the ball, threw to Winn covering home plate, who tagged out Swanigan to end the inning.
Ragland tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the third inning as Scotty Smith singled and Winn reached on a fielder’s choice. With two outs, Nick Smith hit a double that scored his brother and Winn.
The Red Raiders batted around in the third inning, scoring seven runs to put the game out of reach. Winn walked four of the seven batters he faced before being replaced by Daniels.
Ben Crow scored the go-ahead run on an error by Nick Smith. On a play at home, Wallace was safe to make it 4-2. A walk to Swanigan with the bases loaded scored Gray to make it 5-2.
After Ragland coach Tim Chambless changed pitchers, the Red Raiders continued to pile on the runs. Roberts’ sacrifice fly scored Lee Akers. A single by Riebeshel scored Jackson to make it 7-2. Daniels balked and it scored Swanigan. Crow, who started the inning with a walk, then slapped a single up the middle to score Riebeshel to make it 9-2.
Ragland got one of the runs back in the fourth inning as Matt Hicks singled and Jaylen Brewster had a bloop single over the shortstop. With two outs, Scotty Smith had an RBI-single to right to score Hicks to make it 9-3.
In the fifth inning, the Red Raiders added a run as a bunt single by Riebeshel scored Jackson.
The Purple Devils continued to fight as they scored two runs in the sixth inning. Day doubled and scored when Jacob Brewster reached on an error. A stand-up triple by Scotty Smith scored Brewster and that’s when Marion County coach William Box made a pitching change and brought in Crow to replace Roberts. Crow struck out Winn to end the inning.
The Red Raiders added three runs in the sixth inning as Akers had an RBI-single and Roberts reached on an error that allowed two more runs to score to make it 13-5.
Ragland loaded the bases in the seventh inning, but were unable to score to make the final 13-5.
Roberts was the winning pitcher for the Red Raiders while Nick Smith suffered the loss for Ragland.
Ragland 16, Marion County 10
In the third and deciding game, Ragland scored eight runs in the top of the third inning and held on to beat the Red Raiders in a slugfest, 16-10, to move on to the second round.
The Purple Devils got on the scoreboard first as Winn singled and Nick Smith brought him around on a single to make it 1-0 in the top of the first.
Marion County tied it in the bottom of the first as Riebeshel singled and later scored on an error.
Ragland regained the lead in the second inning as Hicks singled and Day beat out a bunt. With two outs, Scotty Smith flied to right, but the wind got a hold of the ball and Jackson misplayed it. The ball dropped allowing Hicks and Day to score to make it 3-1.
The biggest offensive inning of the series for the Purple Devils came in the third inning as they scored eight runs to open up an 11-1 lead.
Daniels and Nick Smith both reached on errors and Killings walked to load the bases. Hicks followed with a two-run double. Jaylen Brewster beat out a bunt single that scored Spencer Odom. Stoney Merritt had a bloop single to load the bases again, and Scotty Smith had the big hit of the inning — a bases-clearing triple to make it 9-1. Winn followed with a single that scored Smith and then Winn scored all the way from second on a fielder’s choice by Nick Smith to make it 11-1.
Marion County got three of the runs back in the third inning as Akers was hit by a pitch that scored Riebeshel. Johnson and Akers scored on a Ragland error to make the score 11-4.
Not to be outdone, Ragland scored three more runs in the fourth inning.
Hicks reached on an error, followed by a bunt single by Day. Jaylen Brewster bunted back to the pitcher, but his throw to third base went down the left field line allowing Hicks to score. A groundout by Merritt scored Day, and then a bloop single by Winn scored Jaylen Brewster to make it 14-4.
The Red Raiders continued to peck away at the Ragland lead. They added two runs in the fourth inning off new pitcher Daniels. Wallace had a sacrifice fly to center that scored Roberts while an infield hit by Johnson scored Riebeshel.
Ragland scored in every inning but the sixth. They added a single run in the fifth on a bunt sacrifice by Day that scored Odom.
Marion County’s Riebeshel had a two-run double in the fifth that made it 15-8.
The Red Raiders loaded the bases in the sixth with one out, but could not push across any runs.
Ragland scored its final run of the game in the seventh as Nick Smith reached on an error and Jaylen Brewster reached on an error that scored Smith.
Marion County had RBI singles by Wallace and Akers in the bottom of the seventh to make the final score 16-10.
Winn picked up the win for the Purple Devils while Wallace suffered the loss for the Red Raiders.
Chambless said it feels great moving on to the second round of the state playoffs.
“We stepped up in game three today from top to bottom,” Chambless said. “Everybody stepped up and helped us out. We got a big win over a very good Marion County team that hits the ball very well. We had to out-hit them today, and that’s what it came down to.”
Chambless said after winning the first game, there was not so much a letdown in the second game, but just a couple of kids fighting injuries.
“Our pitchers could not find the strike zone last night in game two,” Chambless said. “We got frustrated and got down. That’s why it was so important for us to get up early in this game today, and that’s what we did by scoring eight runs in the third inning. We were just going to have to score more runs than them, and that’s what we did.”
Marion County head coach William Box said he felt like his guys had a little bit of momentum coming into Saturday’s game after winning the second game Friday night.
“We just didn’t make the plays when we needed to,” Box said. “Ragland made the plays when they needed to, to get out of jams. We had chances all over the field, but we just didn’t come through with the plays.”
Marion County finished the season with an overall record of 14-11.
Box said it was a rush to get the season started, and only had one practice before the actual season started due to the basketball team advancing to the Elite Eight.
“We had to practice as we played games,” Box said. “We improved as the season went along. We’re still a young team, but we really have to really get over the hump when it comes to confidence. We’ve got to gain our confidence to play in bigger games.”
Ragland, 13-12 overall, will host Gaston in the second round of the AHSAA state playoffs. A doubleheader is scheduled for Friday at 4 and 6 p.m. If the two teams split, a third game will be played Saturday at 1 p.m.
Contact Gary Hanner at firstname.lastname@example.org.