After suffering first-round heartbreak the last seven seasons, Robert E. Lee hoped this would be the year that it would advance past the first round.
The Generals were optimistic under the helm of first-year coach and Lee alum David Thomas, but Auburn had different plans.
The Tigers swept the Generals in the opening round of the Class 6A playoffs with a 6-1 win in Game 1 and a dominant 12-4 performance in Game 2 on Saturday at Paterson Field.
“It’d been a couple years that we didn’t get out of the first round, but I really wanted to get out of the first round because I think we had the team to do it,” senior shortstop Dee Fields said. “We made a couple of errors, but we kept everybody together and kept our heads in it. Only one team can win it.”
After falling in Game 1, Lee utility player Josh Flowers hit a two-run double to give the Generals a 2-0 lead in the top of the first of Game 2. Just when it looked like Lee (15-16) would bounce back from losing in the opener, Auburn responded with an emphatic “No.”
Aided by six Generals errors, the Tigers (17-17) answered with eight runs in the bottom of the first to steal back the momentum. Auburn added two more in the second to go up 10-2.
“I knew we’d have to play error-free baseball to beat them,” Thomas said. “We jumped on them and had all the momentum. Then we came out and made a couple of of mistakes. That’s kind of been the story of our season. We come out and get a lead, them we turn around a make a couple of mistakes. It’s just a frustration factor.”
Xavier Taylor took the Game 2 loss. Taylor allowed eight earned runs, eight hits and walked three in one inning. He had two wild pitches that resulted in Tigers runs.
Fields went 2-for-3 with two steals and two runs scored in Game 2.
Admittedly deflated, the Generals continued to fight to no avail.
“I think we came out and played our hardest,” sophomore center fielder Mason Miller said. “When adversity hit, we wanted to quit. But we didn’t stop, we pushed to the end. Even though we got down, sometimes this year, we fought back and pulled through a win. I thought it would turn around, but God does everything for a reason.”
In Game 1, winning pitcher Michael Lee struck out five in five innings of work. Flowers took the loss, allowing nine hits and four earned runs in six innings.
Senior third baseman Bringhurst went 1-for-3 with an RBI, and Miler went 1-for-3 with a run scored. Bradley Northcutt went 1-for-3 with a RBI, two steals and a run scored for Auburn.
In Game 2, Auburn’s John Grubbs gave up two runs in the first, but struck out the final five batters he faced. Blaise Taylor led the Tigers, going 3-for-4 with five RBIs.
Auburn faces No. 2 Smiths Station in the second round on Friday.
Lee returns all but four players to next year’s squad, leaving Bringhurst optimistic.
“It hurts, I’m not going to lie,” Bringhurst said. “But it’s bittersweet because I know they’ll be something to mess with next year. Our coaching staff, they brought new life. They’re bringing Lee back. Lee baseball will be back.”