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Tokarz utilizes infield defense in 5-0 Brookwood win over Grayson

SNELLVILLE -- Allen Tokarz is the first to admit he is a "pitch to contact"-type pitcher.

"I keep the defense on their toes," the Brookwood right-hander joked after the Broncos' important Region 8-AAAAA game with Grayson. "I'm not going to (throw) it by (hitters). I know that."

When the Broncos play defense like they did against Grayson, that strategy is very sound.

Torkarz induced 15 groundball outs, including having two double plays turned behind him, in going the distance as Brookwood came up with an important 5-0 win Wednesday at the Dave Hunter Complex.

Ryan Woodard went 2-for-3 and drove in two runs and scored two more as the Broncos (16-7, 12-3), winners of six straight and nine of their last 10 games, put themselves in the driver's seat for hosting a first-round series in the Class AAAAA state playoffs next week.

"We're in control," Brookwood coach Rick Howard said of his team, which can wrap up at least the No. 2 seed from the region by beating Archer on Friday. "Anything can (still) happen. I'm just happy the way we're playing right now. We're jelling. We're coming together. We're playing good baseball."

They definitely put together a strong fundamental game Wednesday behind Tokarz -- who never had a true 1-2-3 inning, but threw just 75 pitches in scattering six hits with three strikeouts in getting the complete-game shutout -- and the defense.

Third baseman Michael Gouge was a particularly big factor, channeling his inner Brooks Robinson by making three diving plays to his left to take away potential base hits.

"We made some great plays behind (Tokarz)," Howard said. "That's where we have really stepped up, is defensively. Our pitching has been really good all year. But we've gotten to where we're playing really good defense -- really sound defense.

"(Wednesday has) been Michael all year. For a kid who made the transition from first to third, he's done a great job."

The biggest of those plays came in the top of the first after Grayson's Jeril Dawson led off the game with a single.

After fouling off a sacrifice attempt, Brandon Benson showed bunt again before pulling the bat back and sending a rocket towards the hole between third and short.

But Gouge was there to snare the ground and get the force play at second, and Tokarz escaped any damage when he got Austin Meadows to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Brookwood then executed station-to-station baseball in the bottom of the inning to take the lead.

Cedric Mullins drew a leadoff walk and was moved to second by the first of two sacrifice bunts on the day from Jordan Dykes before coming to the play on a clutch, two-out RBI single up the middle by Woodard to give the Broncos a 1-0 lead.

They extended the lead with more situational hitting, plus taking advantage of Grayson's lone error of the day, in the fourth, with Clint Carr and Garrett Reynolds each driving in a run with a single to push the lead to 3-0.

Woodard and Lucas Sims then added run-scoring hits -- Sims' a double -- in the fifth to extend the Brookwood lead to 5-0 and leave the game in the sure hands of Tokarz and the infield.

Grayson managed baserunners in every inning, but had two of those runners erased on double plays turned by Sims and Blake Schuck.

"The things we've been doing well all season, we didn't do (Wednesday) night," said Grayson coach Seth Rhine, whose will finish no worse than third in the region, but needs to beat Berkmar on Friday and get help from Archer in order to host a first-round playoff series. "(Brookwood was) able to execute the small things, and we weren't."

And the Rams (19-6, 12-3) could never put more than one on base in a single inning until the sixth, when Taylor Allum drew a two-out walk following Benson's one-out double.

But Tokarz bore down and recorded just his second strikeout of the game to get Jack Banda to preserve the shutout.

The Rams then got a break when Brookwood committed its only error of the game on Chris Erwin's grounder leading off the seventh.

But one out later, Gouge came up with another diving play to his left to rob pinch-hitter Drew Taylor of a hit and get the force at second before Tokarz got Carter Collins on a comebacker to the mound to end the game.