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Reeltown's Gabe Bryant called out on a close play at first base in the first game of the series against Excel. (Darius Goodman/Tallapoosa Publishers)

Playoff baseball is the culmination of dreams, expectations and goals on display for every player on the field and between Excel and Reeltown the clash in game one was just as important as a state championship game.

Balks from either side occurred, errors and sharply hit balls all over for each side set the tone of what would be an excellent game. But Reeltown had their work cut out for them. In the early innings, the Rebels couldn’t find a way to keep Excel off the basepaths as pitcher Gabe Bryant surrendered a few early runs before being pulled in favor of freshman Adam Burton.

On the offensive side of the field, the Rebels struggled to push runs across losing chances early on. But the Rebels did manage to score five runs in the sixth inning due to their sheer willpower alone.

The first few innings were a fight. A dropped third strike kicked off the game but Bryant gave up a single and two pitches later, a passed ball moved the runner 90-feet to second. Another passed ball came in the same at-bat before Bryant issued a walk to back-to-back runners loading the bases.

The first two runs of the game scored with a passed ball and subsequent single giving the Rebels early fits.

The good news was Reeltown got a run back in the bottom of the first inning. Collin Carlton reached first after coaxing out a five pitch walk and over Adam Burton’s at-bat, he stole second and third with ease. Logan Lee drove the run in but the Rebels would be unable to bring Lee around despite reaching third on a Will Brooks single.

But that’d be the only run the Rebels would see cross the plate until the bottom of the third inning.

A single and two walks issued led to the Rebels surrendering two runs on a sharply hit single to left field. Another run scored five pitches later and head coach Trey Chambers made the call to replace pitcher Gabe Bryant in the third inning for Burton.

The move worked and the Rebels escaped giving up just one run but the deficit stood at 6-1. With Burton shutting down Excel’s offense, the Rebels were able to score another run in the third inning but the Rebels were still in a 6-2 hole.

Reeltown struck for one in the fifth inning but it came off a walk to Burton and subsequent RBI double from Bryant to chip into the deficit 6-3.

But the wheels fell off partially in the sixth inning. Excel jumped ahead with three more runs with two coming off an RBI single and the final run scoring on a balk by Burton.

However, it was a temporary detour as the Rebels finally mounted a worthy comeback.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Reeltown struck for five runs in the 9-3 game.

Brooks walked and Matt Knox was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second. H Jake walked right after but the Rebels were down to their final out in the inning.

Carlton blasted a single to score two runs and the Rebels’ fortunes began to change. Bryant drove in two runs on a single and Reeltown went six runs down to just two. A balk brought home the last run of the game for either side as Lee grounded out to end the inning.

The Rebels’ chance in the final inning came up sour. Despite getting runners into scoring position a picked off runner at third hurt their chances as it led to their second out in the inning and Zeb Carleton struck out leaving Excel up 1-0 in the series.

Bryant led the offense with a 3-for-4, 4RBI day with Carlton going 2-for-3 with 2RBIs.

Regional Sports Director

Darius Goodman graduated from South Carolina State University in 2015 and returned to Georgia as a sports journalist. 2017 Award-winning sports journalist in Georgia now in Alabama looking to tell the stories of the community.