Emotional rollercoaster
Heritage sweeps Dalton, advances to quarterfinals

CONYERS - All season, the Heritage baseball team has lived by the motto of "a different hero every night."

Nothing was more evident in the Patriots' sweep of Dalton in the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs Wednesday at Danny Blue Field.

After surviving an emotional rollercoaster to win the first game 6-5 in 11 innings, the Patriots (26-4) wrapped up the series with a 6-2 victory in Game 2.

"My goodness I can't say enough about our senior leadership in the two games, almost three games today," Heritage coach Casey Teal said. "They stepped up, came through in the clutch, produced two-out hits and made plays in the field. It was just an unbelievable performance."

After underclassmen Tyler Austin, Brandon Thomas and Anthony Bazzani saved Heritage in Game 1, it was seniors Ryan Jubran, Nick Matteen, Chunk Smith and Brock Holley who took over in Game 2.

Jubran, who had three hits in Game 2, got things started for Heritage in the second inning with a single. Matteen followed with a two-out double to plate the Patriots' first run.

Brock Holley made it 2-0 when the Dalton right fielder lost his fly ball in the lights, allowing it to fall in for an RBI double.

Matteen gave the Patriots a 3-0 lead in the third with a two-out, RBI single.

The Catamounts rallied with a run in the bottom of the third and another in the fifth against Heritage starting pitcher Kelvan Diaz.

Dalton had the bases loaded in the fifth with one out, but Jubran, at shortstop, started a 6-4-3 double play to kill the rally.

In the top of sixth, Heritage's Smith gave his team a two-run cushion with an RBI groundout.

And then, Jubran stepped to the plate and delivered the knockout punch with a two-run single to center, making it 6-3.

"We didn't do a lot of the little stuff like we do usually offensively," Teal said. "But we had kids come through with the bat."

Diaz took it from there, working scoreless sixth and seventh innings to pick up the complete-game victory, his second of the postseason.

Still, if not for the Patriots' amazing resiliency in Game 1, Heritage could have faced possible elimination in

Game 2.

"We talk about baseball and life all the time. Things aren't going to go your way on the field and in life," Teal said. "Our kids have learned over the years that when the going gets tough you've got to come through. I'm proud of our kids coming through when it did get tough, and it was very tough (after the outfield collision). They found a way to win both games."

In a fitting end, Joseph Lester, the center fielder, involved in the Game 1 collision with right fielder Nate Cochran showed up on crutches just after Game 2 ended and was greeted enthusiastically by his cheering teammates.

"The thing that hasn't change for these kids is the expectations they have of themselves and for this team," Teal said.

Heritage will travel to Griffin for the Class AAAA quarterfinals Tuesday.

Jeff Gillespie can be reached at jeff.gillespie@rockdalecitizen.com.