Raiders blank Madison

  • Habersham Central's Rhett Addis throws a pitch during the Raiders' 4-0 win over Madison County High School Wednesday.
    Habersham Central's Rhett Addis throws a pitch during the Raiders' 4-0 win over Madison County High School Wednesday.
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The Habersham Central High School Diamond Raiders combined the “little things” with outstanding pitching to capture their 4-0 victory over the visiting Madison County High School Red Raiders Wednesday night at Raider Park in Demorest.
The game was originally scheduled to be played Tuesday, but inclement weather forced a postponement to Wednesday.
“It was nasty weather, but that’s part of it this time of year,” said coach Chris Akridge.
After previously playing another inclement-weather makeup game against Madison County (3-2) Monday in Danielsville that ended in a 6-4 loss, the Raiders (2-2) rebounded and exacted revenge.
“We had a tough loss Monday,” Akridge said. “They’re a quality baseball club and already have some quality wins under their belt this year. We scheduled them on our non-region schedule to challenge our guys. These last two games have been challenging and I’m just extremely proud of how our guys responded tonight.”
The game was scoreless until the third inning, when the Raiders plated three runs that began with the small ball approach.
Trevor Stevens singled up the middle to start the inning and was able to score on a sacrifice bunt from Christian King. On the play, an errant throw allowed Stevens to score. Ryte Woodruff grounded out for the second out of the inning, but Azzi Cervantes followed with a line-drive single, then advanced to third base moments later on an error by the Red Raiders’ first baseman. Rhett Addis walked to give the Raiders runners on first and third – the Raiders then executed a double-steal, with Addis swiping second and Cervantes crossing the plate for the Raiders’ second run. Logan Hare then singled over the second-baseman’s head to score Addis, giving the Raiders a 3-0 lead.
“We practice the little things a lot,” Akridge said. “We’ve really tried to challenge our guys in practice a lot more this year to try to make them more difficult than the games, while also emphasizing the little things. Doing the little things like that put pressure on their defense – which is solid – and ended up sparking a big inning for us.”
The Raiders scored their fourth run of the game in the fourth inning on a line-drive single from Stevens that scored Peyton Lewallen. 
While the small-ball approach was instrumental in the win, the Raiders’ pitching performances were equally as important.
“I can’t say enough about our pitching staff,” Akridge said.
Going into the game, the plan was to have a number of guys pitch, Akridge said, which is exactly what happened.
Logan Bogue (one inning, two strikeouts), Austin Jones (one inning, one strikeout), Cervantes (one inning, one strikeout), Hunter Tatum (two innings, two strikeouts) and Addis (two innings, two strikeouts) combined to pitch seven scoreless innings. The five allowed just two hits and walked none.
“Madison is a really good team and they have a great approach at the plate, so for our guys to win a game by only throwing 79 pitches is incredible on their part,” pitching coach Dan Keef said. “They executed perfectly. Our guys didn’t walk one batter last night, which is outstanding.”
The Raiders’ staff also exceeded one of their goals.
“Our pitchers came out and threw a ton of strikes,” Akridge said, adding the staff combined to throw 75% of their pitches for strikes. “That’s huge. Our goal for every game is 60%.”
Throwing so many pitchers helped the Raiders in many ways, Akridge said.
“Throwing so many guys helped keep Madison off-balance,” he said. “They couldn’t get in a rhythm. They saw two lefties, three righties, guys with more velocity and guys with some softer stuff. It was just a tremendous job by our pitching staff, and that wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for Coach Keef doing a tremendous job of preparing them.”
Keef said the work put in during the offseason makes it possible to have the number of arms available each game.
“We work really hard to create an environment where our pitchers can stay healthy and get better,” he said. “We work hard in the offseason to get to a certain point to where they are ready to pitch in a game. From there, we monitor their pitch count to build them up as the season progresses. The season is a marathon and we want our guys to be at their best in region play and be primed for a playoff run.”
The work is just beginning, though.
“They’ve done well in these first four games, but there’s also a lot of room for improvement,” Keef said. “We must continue to work and get better each day.”
With Habersham County Schools being closed due to inclement weather concerns Thursday, the Raiders were unable to practice.
“I’m not a fan of snow days once baseball season starts,” Akridge said with a laugh. “I hate missing practice. We’ll probably be able to get on the field Friday, so we’ll get a good fundamental practice in.” 
The Raiders will then go home and rest, Akridge added.
“Saturday will be a long day – we have three games out here,” he said. 
The Raiders will play a pair of games Saturday against Pike and Stephens county high schools, but while Akridge is wary of the toll the day may take on his team, he’s also excited.
“We’ve done this several years in a row now, but now we’re calling it the ‘Patrick Mayfield Memorial Diamond Day,’” he said. “We’re going to designate that day from here on out to honor the life of Coach Mayfield.”
Mayfield coached for the Raiders until his passing on July 5, 2019. He was from Toccoa and graduated and coached at Stephens County High School.
“We’re going to honor him before that 5 p.m. game with his family members in attendance and both us and Stephens County participating,” Akridge said. “It’s going to be a special day that I know he would have loved.”
First pitch between the Raiders and Pike County High School is set for 11 a.m.