Cambridge played region-leading and defending state champion Pope HS in the final game of the regular season Friday night, April 20th at Cambridge HS. Pope had already clinched the region title with a 14-1 record, while Cambridge had clinched a playoff berth with a clutch victory over Dunwoody Wednesday night, sitting at 9-6 in region. Cambridge needed a win versus Pope or a Dunwoody loss to clinch third in region to avoid playing a top seed in the first round of the playoffs.
Cambridge starter Jared Spears pitched lights out in the early innings, getting a strikeout to end the first and coaxing a double play to end an uneventful second. Cambridge wasted a Teddy Egan double in the first and did nothing of its own in the second. Spears set Pope down in order in the third, while Cambridge jumped on the board in the bottom of the inning.
Ryan Todd kicked things off with a one-out line-drive single to center Egan came up next and drove his second double of the game to the gap in right center to knock in Todd and make the score 1-0. Pope countered back with four of its own in the fourth courtesy of three hits and an error to jump out to a 4-1 lead.
With Johns Creek leading Dunwoody 4-1 through the majority of that game, it appeared Cambridge might back in to the third place spot. That appeared even more likely in the fifth when Pope added another run by error to move the score to 5-1 after five innings.
Ben LaCombe entered the game on the mound in the sixth and coaxed a double play to end the frame, setting up fireworks for the Cambridge offense in the bottom of the inning. Mitch Fleming started with a one-out double to deep right. Andrew Spears and Ross Friedrick coaxed two-out walks to load the bases. Fleming then scored on a wild pitch to close the gap to 5-2. Senior Christian Lail came to the plate as a pinch-hitter and lined a beautiful single to left center to score Spears, but the rally ended there with a score of 5-3.
Pope added an insurance run in the seventh, courtesy of a two-out walk and triple to make the score 6-3. Needing three to tie in the bottom of the seventh, the offense exploded early and often. Todd led off with a double over the bag at third. Egan legged out an infield hit and moved to second on a throwing error, while Todd scored on the play Cody Rech lofted a high fly ball down the left field line for a double, though pinch-runner David Kramer had to hold up at third to ensure the ball was not caught.
Kramer would then score via wild pitch, moving Rech to third down a run. Pope called for a pickoff at third that backfired as the ball ended up down the left field line allowing Rech to cruise home for a 6-6 tie with one out. The fireworks were not over, however. A single by Justin Tanguay kept the rally alive. Spears drove a ball to the gap in right center for a double putting both runners in scoring position. Friedrick was then intentionally walked to load the bases. Pope gambled by playing its middle infielders back and it paid off as they turned a slick 6-4-3 double play to end the rally and push the game to extra innings.
Casey Young, coming off of a big save in the playoff-clincher Wednesday night, came back out to the mound in the eighth. He wasted little time as he retired the side on eight pitches, bringing up the hot Cambridge offense in the bottom of the eighth to hopefully close out the game and the third place finish. Todd singled to right to start things off and moved to second on a wild pitch. Egan was then intentionally walked to keep the force in play. Both runners moved up a base on a balk, causing Pope to intentionally walk Friedrick and load the bases.
Tanguay stepped to the plate with two outs and did what he's been doing all year when he lined a single through the right side of the infield for a walk-off 7-6 victory. The walk-off happened right as Dunwoody closed out its come-from-behind victory over Johns Creek, ensuring the Bears would be the three seed in region for playoff purposes. With an unexpected loss by Alpharetta versus North Atlanta, Cambridge finished tied for second in region with a 10-6 record, the same as Alpharetta. Pope finished at 14-2, taking a loss after winning 17 consecutive games entering the day.
Jared Spears pitched five strong innings to keep the Bears in the game. Young pitched a scoreless eighth to get the win. The top of the order led the offense as Todd had three hits with a double and three runs scored, while Egan had three hits including two doubles and an RBI. Tanguay had two hits and the game-winner, while Fleming, Rech and Andrew Spears each had doubles.
Cambridge moves on to the first round of the GHSA 6A playoffs. Each round is a best of three series, and the Bears travel to Gainesville HS to play the Red Elephants in a DH on Thursday, April 26. Game times are still TBD. Come out to support the Bears as they seek the school's first state title in baseball.