By Zach Shugan
ALPHARETTA, Ga. — The Fellowship Christian School baseball team entered the 2021 season with lofty expectations, both from itself and the rest of the state. Through 14 games, Fellowship has shown why many consider it to be one of the best teams in the state.
The Paladins, ranked No. 4 in Class A Private by Georgia Dugout Preview and No. 5 by Coaches Box Georgia, downed region foe St. Francis on the road Wednesday, winning 10-0 in five innings. The win was Fellowship’s fifth in a row, improving its record this season to 11-3 overall and 5-2 in region play.
Fellowship mercy ruled St. Francis (6-9, 3-4) behind an offensive onslaught and a shutdown performance on the mound from junior Jason Gilley, who pitched all five innings and gave up only two hits.
Going up against St. Francis senior Harry Cain, a future Kennesaw State pitcher, the Paladins got off to a hot start at the plate and never looked back. After sophomore Cooper Davidson walked in the game’s first at-bat, senior David Bishop knocked a ball over the center field fence to give Fellowship an early 2-0 lead.
Fellowship tacked on four more runs before Cain (3.2 IP, 9 hits, 4 earned runs, 3 strikeouts) was pulled in the fourth inning.
“Harry is an absolute stud,” Fellowship head coach Shawn Oliver said. “We were fortunate to get to him early because once he settles in he’s really good.”
The Paladins had a stud of their own on the mound in Gilley, an uncommitted 6-foot-4, right-handed junior.
“Jason has been an absolute blessing for this team,” Oliver said. “He had some arm issues that kind of shut him down last year, unfortunately, but the dude has absolutely shoved it. I can’t be more proud of the kid.”
With Gilley keeping the Knights at bay and the Paladins having their way at the plate, it set up for a quick outing between two talented teams.
Cooper Davidson, who was recently named NFSR Athlete of the Week, finished with a team-high three hits, including an inside-the-park home run aided by an error from the Knights in the fourth inning. Bishop, who signed in November to play college baseball at TCU, notched three RBIs off two hits, including his first-inning home run. Fellowship also had a homer from senior Andrew Davidson, who hit a solo shot to right field to lead of the third inning.
In total, Fellowship tallied 11 hits and four walks in its 27 at-bats as a team. The win marked the Paladins’ fourth game in a row with at least 10 runs scored.
“Going into the season, we talked about how good our offense was and how deep our offense was. Just to finally see them get woken up and keep going, the bats are hot right now. Hopefully they stay hot on Friday.”
The goal for the Paladins has been clear since the start of the season, according to Oliver: Finish the regular season in first place in the region standings and bring home the first region title in program history.
The Paladins (11-3, 5-2) have been tripped up a couple times in region play, but with their win Wednesday they stayed within striking distance of first-place Mount Pisgah in the Region 6 A Private standings. The Patriots stand at 5-7 overall and 4-0 in region play.
Fellowship and Mount Pisgah have yet to play this season. Of the Paladins’ three region games remaining, two are against the Patriots (Apr. 1 & Apr. 13). If both teams continue on their current trajectory, the games will likely decide who wins the region title and earns a one seed in the state playoffs.
“Our boys are on fire,” Oliver said. “They’re locked in. We’re just fighting for our lives to get in the playoffs right now. The goal is still to win a region championship and that’s still in our grasp, so we just got to keep fighting.”
Fellowship and St. Francis play again Friday at Fellowship, weather permitting. The Paladins are second in the region standings, and the Knights are fourth. The top four teams in the region standings make the Class A Private state tournament, which begins Apr. 28.
|1. Mount Pisgah||4-0|
|3. King’s Ridge||4-4|
|4. St. Francis||3-4|
|6. Lakeview Academy||0-5|