SAVANNAH -- It's a good thing the Wesleyan baseball team has taken a liking to playing and winning on the road in the Class AA state tournament.
For the second week in a row, the Wolves will have to win a decisive third game on their opponent's home field to advance to the next round.
On Tuesday, the Wolves (21-11) split the opening two games of their best-of-three quarterfinals series against Benedictine, winning the first game 7-3 before losing 9-0 in the second game. Thus, the Wolves and Cadets (28-4) will meet again today to decide the series and see who survives to play in the state semifinals.
"We know what it's like to play a three-game series and have to win two of three, and I think our kids will be ready for it," Wesleyan coach Brian Krehmeyer said. "I'm excited about it. I know our kids are, and I am sure Benedictine is too."
Last week, the Wolves, who finished third in Region 6-AA, dropped the opening game of their second-round series at Jefferson, but bounced back to take the next two games to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since the 2010 season when they won their third straight state championship. Wesleyan took the first two games of its first-round playoff series at Coosa to begin its quest for another state crown.
Benedictine also had to win in three games last week in its second-round meeting against Thomasville. The Cadets lost the series opener but came back to take the next two games, winning the third game 16-3 to earn a berth in the quarterfinal round. The Region 2-AA champions won their first-round series over Screven County in two games to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since their 1961 state championship season.
"After losing that first game, I'm just happy to be able to play another day," Benedictine coach Kevin Farmer said. "Our backs were against the wall again, and it was good just to get the win in the second game."
Wesleyan plans to start junior Trey Mannion on the mound in the deciding game against the Cadets. He started the third game against Jefferson last week when the Wolves won 9-4.
Farmer said he wasn't sure who would start for the Cadets, but he will choose from sophomore left-hander Trey Tatum who made the start in Game 3 last week against Thomasville or senior right-hander John McCarthy who pitched in relief in that game.
If the Wolves are going to advance, they will likely have to tighten up their defense, which was uncharacteristically bad Tuesday when they committed 10 total errors, five in each game.
The miscues didn't hurt the Wolves in the opening game as starting pitcher Johnny Richards delivered a gritty performance while the Wolves mounted enough offense to keep a safe cushion between themselves and the Cadets.
However, the errors proved costly in the second game as the Cadets mixed timely hitting that included several bunts for hits with an array of blunders by the Wolves who helped Benedictine with walks, balks, hit batters and also the five errors.
"I can't really explain it, but we certainly didn't play our best defense today," Krehmeyer said. "Maybe some guys were trying to do too much or were thinking too much.
"Winning the first game put us at ease, but maybe too much at ease. They blitzed us in Game 2, and we weren't ready to play. They play small-ball and used it effectively."
All the while, Wesleyan was handcuffed by Benedictine sophomore left-hander Stevie Powers who pitched a complete-game shutout for the victory. He struck out four and walked three while allowing just five hits for the game. Four of those hits were by Wesleyan leadoff batter Jahmai Jones who was 4-for-4 for the game.
Powers found himself in a bases-loaded jam with one out in the third but escaped trouble with a strikeout and a groundout to end the inning.
"We didn't take advantage of their mistakes in the first game," Farmer said, "but we put pressure on them again in the second game and got ahead and allowed our pitcher to pitch to contact."
In the opener, the Wolves jumped out to a 1-0 lead in their first at-bat, but the Cadets got a two-run home run from Brad Stewart in the bottom of the inning for a 2-1 lead.
Those would be the only runs for the Cadets, though, against Richards who held them scoreless the remainder of the game before leaving with one out in the seventh. He struck out three and didn't walk a batter while earning the win. Andrew Sauer recorded the final two outs.
The Wolves banged out 10 hits, regaining a 3-2 lead with two runs in the third. They added two runs in the sixth and two more in the seventh, chasing Benedictine freshman starter Chip Wiley in the process.
Griffin Bone was 3-for-4 in the opener with an RBI while Connor Woerner was 2-for-2 with an RBI-double. Jones had two hits in Game 1 and Grant Colton drove in two runs with a single and a sacrifice fly.