MILTON – With the crowd on its feet and everything on the line, Dylan Biumi stepped off the back of the mound to collect his thoughts.
Even after a moment of reflection, the senior righty couldn’t quite wrap his head around the magnitude of it all. The one thing he was sure of, however, was that he needed to throw a strike.
So Biumi toed the rubber, started his delivery and fired a pitch on the outside corner of the plate. He didn’t think he was going to get the call, and it wasn’t until catcher Kyle McCann began celebrating when Biumi understood what just happened.
He just brought Lambert baseball its first ever state title.
Milton’s Dalton Ewing didn’t offer at the pitch and was rung up by the home plate umpire, stranding the tying run at first base. After splitting the first two games of the Class AAAAAA championship series with the Eagles, Lambert won the rubber match, 2-1, cementing the program as Georgia’s best in 2014.
Biumi, who took the loss for the Longhorns in Game 2, redeemed himself in poetic fashion.
“Sometimes you have seniors that you can’t keep off the field,” said head coach Jamie Corr. “I think in that situation if I didn’t put Dylan in, he would have gone out there on his own.”
Seth Beer started for Lambert, though he didn’t have his best stuff. Beer gave up two hits but struggled with his command, and it didn’t take long for his pitch count to rise. After three-plus innings, Turner Scruggs came on in relief and also went three-plus, surrendering two hits in that span.
Scruggs went back out in the seventh with a chance to put the final nail in Milton’s coffin, but was pulled after giving up a lead-off single. That’s when Biumi, who started two days prior, got the nod.
Three batters later, it was over.
“The pitchers really stepped up,” Corr said. “Every single guy we put up there, from our starters to Turner (Scruggs), to Kyle Smith, to every single guy we put on that mound—they stepped up.”
Lambert’s victory wouldn’t have been possible without its abundance of skilled sophomores and juniors, but it was their seniors who sealed the deal in the end.
Shortstop Trey Logan made a key scoop on a force out in the seventh, preventing Milton from reaching scoring position; cleanup hitter Jake Chickowski got the fifth inning started with a crucial double that led to a game-winning RBI; and, of course, Biumi came in on short rest and closed the door.
“They’re the ones who brought this thing home,” Corr said of his veterans. “That’s our seniors right there, the nucleus of our team.”
Thanks to solid pitching and strong defense, the Longhorns were able to scrape together enough runs to come away with the victory, despite lacking their usual potency at the dish.
Chickowski’s double in the fifth set up the Longhorns to take the lead, and that’s exactly what they did. Three batters after he split the gap in right-center, McCann hit a bloop single to left field scoring pinch runner Parker Scruggs.
McCann reached base on an error in the fourth, and pinch-runner Jarrett Wright scored shortly thereafter when pinch-hitter Will Dunavant lined an RBI single.
With a right hander Dalton Ewing on the mound for Milton, Corr opted to put Dunavant, a lefty, in the game for this one at-bat. That move paid major dividends and may have ultimately been the difference.
“We have a lot of confidence in our bench,” Corr said. “We felt we were one of the deepest teams in the state. To go to a guy like Will Dunavant, it’s just a credit to our program.”
For Biumi, this marks the end of an illustrious high school career. While he and the other seniors will soon embark on college, Lambert’s stout collection of underclassmen will come back in 2015 with aspirations of winning back-to-back state crowns.
Given how much talent is set to return, such a goal is well within reach.
“I think we started a dynasty now,” Biumi added. “We set a high expectation, but we have some juniors and sophomores who’ve gotten a lot of experience. I definitely think they can come in (next year) and keep this going for us.”