By Steve Knight and Gabriel Stovall
FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. — Jake Lee was so amped about his Whitewater team’s triumph over No. 2 Troup CountyTuesday night that even his favorite meal at Twisted Taco couldn’t keep him quiet about it.
The senior and Georgia Tech signee pitched a complete game shutout, giving up only four hits in what turned out to be a fairly convincing 2-0 win over the state’s second ranked squad and what Maxpreps called the No. 44 team in the nation.
“It was a big win for us because they’re a pretty good team, and they’re just one game behind us in the region,” said Lee, while surrounded by teammates during their post game meal. “So I think this game set the tone for our next couple of games with them and for the rest of the week.”
It didn’t take long for Lee to uncork his best stuff, from the mound. In fact, it was an early whiffing of Troup slugger and Auburn baseball signee Jonathan Foster that set the foundation for Lee’s confidence throughout the game.
“I felt (having a good game) was pretty foretelling when their lead off guy came up and I got him to strike out,” Lee said. “He’s a great player, and one of their best hitters, and I was able to kind of handle him the way I wanted to.”
Meanwhile, Troup ended up replacing pitcher Jarred Helton in the third inning after Whitewater’s Tyler Doanes got a base hit which set up third baseman Brandon Bell’s two-run shot off of Helton’s first pitch to him that went soaring cleanly over the left center fence.
Bell said his eyes lit up when he saw the ball release out of Helton’s hand.
“Coach told us he was going to be kind of a slow pitch lefty, and I’d have to look it the other way,” Bell said. “But when I came up, he threw the fast ball inside and I turned on it and got it off the bat and I knew it was gone off the bat.”
Lee said he and the pitching staff got a good look at Bell’s smash, and pushed pause on their in-game preparations to celebrate.
“We were in the bullpen at the time, and when we saw it, and we all did a little Sammy Sosa shuffle to the dugout to congratulate him,” Lee said.
Because of Lee’s strong showing on the mound, Bell’s two runs were enough to seal the deal and give the Wildcats sole possession of first place in Region 5-AAAA. Although there was a pretty contentious moment for Lee and company in the fourth inning.
It was then that a Troup County batter hit a ball that glanced off his own leg and rolled into play, causing the batter to be thrown out at first by Whitewater catcher Nick Weinstein for the out that seemingly ended the top half of the fourth.
But after Troup’s third base coach protested the call, the field umpire overturned it, putting Whitewater back on defense. From there, Troup knocked a pair of base hits and saw one of its batters get hit with a pitch to load the bases. But Whitewater shortstop Tyler Burdette helped get Lee out of the jam when he fielded a ground ball and got off a quick throw to second for the out.
It would be the most formidable scoring threat of the evening for Troup, as the win gave Whitewater (18-3, 9-0) its ninth straight victory while ending Troup’s 11-game winning streak.
Lee said the win — the team’s fourth against teams ranked in the top 50 nationally — also made Whitewater more bullish in its attempt to prove it belongs in the conversation of nationally elite programs.
“You hear all these things about these teams that you’re going to play, and you really don’t know what you’re going to get until you set your talent against their talent,” Lee said. “So we’ve got Gillis pitching against them next, and we’ve got just as much confidence in him as in me, if not more. Everybody will be confident and we’ll be aggressive with the mind to sweep them. We’re always at our best when we’re confident.”
Tuesday night’s game was the first of a five-game stretch that will see Whitewater facing Woodward Academy at home on Wednesday, followed by games against Troup Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in LaGrange and Friday at 6 p.m. back at Whitewater.