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No. 1 Walters State takes down No. 13 Georgia Highlands in game one of Appalachian District Series

No. 1 Walters State takes down No. 13 Georgia Highlands in game one of Appalachian District Series

MORRISTOWN, TN – It's not always going to be pretty, but in postseason play any win is a good win. 


That was the case for No. 1 Walters State on Tuesday in game one of the Appalachian District Series as they took down No. 13 Georgia Highlands, 4-3, to move one win away from returning to the NJCAA DI JUCO World Series. 


With the win, Walters State improved to 56-5 on the season. 


"It's very important to get that first win," Walters State pitcher Kohl Drake said. "We're going to have the momentum coming into tomorrow. Hopefully, we can stay up and punch our ticket." 


The Senators totaled seven hits in the game and just two went for extra bases. However, Walters State did the little things right as they moved runners around the bases with productive at-bats and outs.


Colby Backus led the way at the plate with three hits while Noah Gent, hitting just behind Backus, had two RBIs. Dalton McLain drove in the other two runs. 


On the mound, Drake got the start and threw 7.2 innings, allowing three runs on eight hits while striking out 11. He improved to 14-0 on the season with the win. 


With Drake's extended start, he gave the bullpen an extra day of rest as they look to have all hands on deck for the rest of the series. 


"It was huge for him to go that far in the game," Walters State reliever Geo Rivera said. "It saves me and the other guys for tomorrow and the next day if it gets to that."


Drake looked to be in trouble early as he gave up a solo homer to the second batter of the game. However, instead of letting that get to him, Drake powered through.


"I just missed a spot and that dude can hit and he punished me for missing that spot," Drake said. "I just figured that I really had to focus up and hit my spots and make good pitches and keep them off balance. I had the fastball and changeup going with bits and pieces of the curveball." 


With the Senators leading 4-2 with two outs in the eighth, Drake ran into trouble as Georgia Highlands David Smith laced a solo homer to cut the lead to one. Ben Olson was the next batter and tripled to left-center to put the tying run at the plate.


The triple ended Drake's day as he made way for Rivera. Rivera got a groundout to end the inning and then went 1-2-3 in the ninth. 


"I just knew I had to attack him from the beginning," Rivera said. "He hasn't seen me, so I knew I had to attack. I came with two pitches, and he wasn't ready for it."


It was Rivera's fifth save of the season. 


For Drake, to be able to have a guy like Rivera come in behind him, puts him at ease no matter the situation.


"I had no doubts," Drake said. "I knew he was the right man to come in there. Never a doubt in my mind for him to come in and get out of it." 


Following Georgia Highlands' homer in the first, the Senators tied the game up in the bottom of the second. Gent led the inning off with a double and Corbin Shaw walked behind him. Kory Klingenbeck moved both runners over with a groundout before McLain scored Gent with an RBI groundout. 


The Chargers took the lead back in the third with an RBI groundout, but it didn't last long as Walters State scored one in the bottom half to make it 2-2. Caleb McNeely singled with one out and Backus moved him to second with a two-out single. Gent was next up and a hard-hit grounder to third went off his glove, allowing McNeely to score. 


In the fifth, Georgia Highlands had a chance to retake the lead with two on and two outs. The Chargers Caden Smith hit a long fly ball to center that McLain caught while crashing into the wall for the final out. 


"That was huge," Drake said. "I had to come in and say thank you after that one. He saved me right there."


Building off that momentum, the Senators took the lead for good in the bottom half with two runs to go up 4-2. Nick Block started things off with a one-out single and Backus doubled him to third. Gent scored Block on a sacrifice fly before a walk and hit batter loaded the bases. McLain was the next batter, and he was hit by the first pitch to score Backus and increase the lead to two. 


From there, other than the solo homer in the eighth, Drake and Rivera slammed the door to secure the win. 


Up Next:


Walters State will be back in action against Georgia Highlands on Wednesday for game two of the series. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Ken Campbell Field.


"We just need to attack from the beginning," Rivera said. "We need to just keep doing what we are doing and stay on them from the start." 


Rob Harvey

Walters State Community College

Sports Information Director

Cell: (423) 779-8880