His obligations met — team talk, awards ceremony, congratulatory handshakes and the last of his media interviews done — the dust was finally beginning to settle on this day when his team lost the Class AAA state championship 19-9 in six innings.
Moody was finally alone in the dugout. He took a deep breath and starred out into space. Then he looked down, collecting his thoughts.
Perhaps he was wondering how long it would be until his team gets another golden opportunity to play for the state title again. Perhaps he was combing over the day’s events strand by strand and second guessing himself.
After all, the Jaguars seemed like they were steam rolling to the state title when they went up 18-0 on the defending state champion Columbus in Game 1 of the best-of- three series, barely 24 hours ago.
What went wrong?
“The thing is a lot of folks thought I should have brought the Game 1 starter (his son Casey Moody) back to start Game 3,” said coach Moody, whose team lost Game 2 late Monday 12-2 in five innings to force Game 3. “But he threw 90 pitches the day before and his arm was still a little tender. Our plan was to bring him back in late if it was close.”
Game 3 was close, 9-8 in SHS’s favor, until Spalding ran out of pitching in the bottom of the fourth.
The Jags tried desperately to stop the bleeding and push the game into the fifth, where, maybe, just maybe, Moody and his staff might have taken a chance on running Casey Moody out there. But it didn’t work out that way. Four pitching changes later, in the fourth inning alone, the Jags were left shell shocked when Columbus scored 10 runs to take an 18-9 lead.
In the end, who knows what would have happened had Spalding pushed the game into the fifth inning with minimal damage?
Perhaps it would have crumbled in the fifth or sixth anyway, before Moody and staff could have inserted Casey Moody. Or maybe Casey Moody, wouldn’t have been as sharp after tossing a two-hitter in an 18-1 Game 1 victory in six innings.
We’ll never know.
What we do know is Spalding gave it everything it had. Each player left the field completely drained. There was nothing more they could have done.
In big games like that all you can do is be prepared when your moment arrives to do what you’ve been trained to do. Toward that end, there was nothing more Spalding could have done.
The Jags battled valiantly, taking their first of four leads throughout the game when Austin Hurt reached on a leadoff error and scored on a single by clean-up hitter Dylan Griffin in the top of the first.
Columbus went up 4-1 in the bottom of the first, but SHS continued to battle in the top of the second when No. 9-hitter Austin Smith hit a two-out solo homer and Casey Moody hit a three-run home run off the scoreboard in right field to put the Jags back in the lead 5-4.
Columbus scored two in the bottom of the second only to watch Spalding come storming back in the top of the third as Nathan Skinner reached on a one-out single and Zach Lerner walked on back-to-back plays to set the table for an RBI double by Powell Krepps and RBI single by Smith on back-to-back plays before Krepps scored on a wild pitch to put Spalding back in the lead 8-6.
The Blue Devils then scored two runs in the bottom of the third to even the score 8-all. Spalding merely retook the lead in the top of the fourth when Casey Moody reached on an infield single and scored on a single by Robert Green.
Little did Spalding know that would be it’s last lead this season.
It was a season of remarkable accomplishment. Not only did the Jags win a school-record 32 games against 5 losses, they also won a school-record 21 games straight and brought home the team’s fourth region championship.
As if that wasn’t enough, they also made it deeper into the state playoffs than any team in school history, and along the way gave us all a lot of great memories.
(John Sullivan is the sports editor at the Griffin Daily News).