Fitzgerald coaches his last game after a long, successful and exciting 14 years

Coach Brian Fitzgerald is honored after his final game

For the past 14 years the Toombs County High School baseball program has been led by head coach Brian Fitzgerald. His Bulldogs have won 237 games, qualified for the GHSA State Playoffs eight times and have beaten their arch rival Vidalia 19 times. But numbers don’t tell the whole story. Coach Fitzgerald brought excitement to the Bulldog baseball program. Sure there were a few up and down seasons. However, the Dawgs were liable to pull off an amazing, dynamic victory anytime they took the field. Fitzgerald made Dawg baseball fun from 2005 through 2018.

Fitzgerald’s final game was a 6-1 home win over Southeast Bulloch played at Jacky Jones Field in Lyons on April 20, 2018.

Coach Fitzgerald meets with the umpires for a final time
Coach Fitzgerald talks to his Dawgs before his final game

Listen to Bryce Braddy’s interview with coach Fitzgerald

 

The Bulldogs salute coach Fitzgerald

Coach Fitzgerald with his girls who grew up at Jack Jones Field

Coach Fitzgerald actually won his first game as the interim head coach of the Bulldogs in 2004 when he was an assistant coach. The Bulldogs beat Bleckley County in a home game and he was coaching the team because head coach Chris Harrelson had to miss the game because of the birth of his son Gage. Gage is now 14 and is wrapping up his final season of middle school ball. Next season the left-handed pitcher and hitter will join his father Chris, who is an assistant coach at Houston County. 

Neal Rogers pitches coach Fitzgerald to his 100th win at East Laurens

Fitzgerald won his 100th game on Tuesday April 14, 2009.  Justin Adams hit a two-run first inning home run to right field and Neal Rodgers drilled a three-run homer way over the left field fence in the seventh and Rodgers tossed a complete-game three hitter with seven strikeouts and just one walk. In the Bulldogs 7-3 sub-region win at East Laurens.

Coach Brian Fitzgerald talks to the Bulldogs during his 200th win at Islands

His 200th victory came on February 26, 2016. Nick Curtis pitched seven innings for the first time in his Bulldog career and led Toombs County to a 2-0 win over the Islands Sharks in Savannah. Curtis allowed only four hits in his shutout victory and he also contributed a RBI double in the sixth which drove in D.R. Meadows with the second run.

Fitzgerald and the GHSA State Tourney

Blue and coach Brian Fitzgerald discuss if Dalton McBride was hit by a pitch in playoff game at Dodge County

In his 16 years at TCHS including his first two as an assistant before becoming the head coach, the Bulldogs made the playoffs 10 total times. In 2003 the Dawgs won a three-game first round series at Callaway High School before losing in the second round at Brantley County. The next season the Bulldogs had to make a serious late season push to make the playoffs. They won a crucial game at Jeff Davis thanks to a big catch in the bottom of the seventh inning by “The Rooster” to earn a trip to Alma to play Bacon County. TCHS lost in two games to the Raiders who went on to beat Jeff Davis for the AA State Championship.

Fitzgerald took over as the head coach in 2005 and made the state tourney that season and also in 2006 and 2007. In 2009 the Bulldogs not only made the playoffs but they also won a first round home series against Henry County in two games before traveling to Cook County.

In their fourth trip to Adel for the state playoffs the Bulldogs won their first game versus the Hornets. Javec King struck out a career-high 15 batters and allowed just two hits in a 12-0 seven inning win in game one. Senior Justin Adams opened the Bulldog scoring by hitting a two-run homer in the first, his 11th of the season and 23rd of his career. Lance Mosley also hit a two-run home run. In game two D.J. Johnson scattered nine hits and struck out 13 Bulldogs in an 11-1 Cook County victory.

The series ended with Cook’s 9-6 win. The Hornets led 8-0 and 9-1, however, the Bulldogs rallied with a five-run seventh.  King singled in a run and four seniors followed with run scoring hits- Bryan Benton, Adams, Neal Rodgers and Taylor Dowd. The Bulldogs finished with a 22-8 record.

In 2010 the Bulldogs went even deeper into the post season. Toombs defeated Brantley County in three games in round one with the Bulldogs winning game three 10-4. Berry Aldredge went 3-for-4 with three RBI and then in another three game home series in the second round, against Berrien County, Aldredge ended game three with a walk-off home run off the left field foul poll in a 6-5 Dawg victory in eight innings. Toombs lost at home in the Elite 8 round to Calhoun 7-0 and 6-1.

The Bulldogs missed the post season in 2011 and 2012. However, they made another run to the Elite 8 in 2013. As a number three seed TCHS swept Dublin in two games on the road- 5-3 and 12-1. In the second round the Bulldogs swept Fitzgerald at Jacky Jones Field 12-5 and 8-6. The season ended at Westminster (Atlanta) with a pair of losses- 7-1 and 11-3.

Toombs made the playoffs as a number four seed in 2014 and they reeled off a pair of wins at Bleckley County in the opening round. James Ethredge and Jeremy Beasley limited the Royals to just six hits and three runs in 17 innings of baseball which the Bulldogs won by scores of 4-3 in 10 innings and 7-1.

In the second round at Cook County the Hornets won game one 5-4 in 12 innings. Toombs took the second game 9-5 and Cook prevailed in the third game 12-8.

Toombs missed the playoffs in 2015 and 16, but they finished the 2017 regular season with a six game winning streak to place fourth in the Region 2 standings. In the post season the Bulldogs won another six straight and all on the road. Fitzgerald’s Bulldogs swept Laney 14-3 and 15-0, then they beat Banks County 12-2 and 8-7 in eight innings. They advanced to the Final 4 for the first time since 1996 with a pair of victories at Dodge County 6-3 and 3-2 in eight innings. In the semifinals TCHS lost at Jeff Davis 9-6 and 13-3.

Fitzgerald versus the Indians

Brian Fitzgerald gets ready to coach against Greg James and the Vidalia Indians

In Toombs County you are always judged by how you do against the Vidalia Indians. Coach Fitzgerald went 19-10-1 (.655 winning percentage) against the Bulldogs number one rival. He finishes his career with his longest win streak against the V. The Bulldogs have won six straight.

2005    2-2- The Indians won the two regular season games and then the Bulldogs won a pair of games in the region playoffs to qualify for state.

2006   2-0

2007   1-1- The Bulldogs lost at home to the Indians 6-4 and then defeated Vidalia by that same 6-4 score on the road. Jared Allen was the winning pitcher and he drove in two runs in a 1-for-2 day with a RBI double and a sacrifice fly. Jared pitched 6 1/3 innings and allowed eight hits and three earned runs with four strikeouts. Cody Williams hit an opposite field homer and he recorded the final two outs with the bases loaded in a dramatic relief appearance on the mound. James Allen was 2-for-4 with two doubles and a RBI.

2008   0-2- The Dawgs lost 8-3 on the reservation and  lost at home 7-6. They trailed 6-2 and 7-3. Neal Rogers and Bryan Benton each had 3 hits and Taylor Dowd singled in a pair of runs in the bottom of the 7th on a shot that hit the pitcher and the 2nd base bag.

2009   2-0- At home Javec King pitched a no-hitter striking out 10 and walking two and he retired 18 of the final 19 batters which he faced including the last 14 in a row. Taylor Dowd went 2-for-2 with 2 RBI’s and 3 runs scored in a 6-1 win.

TCHS won 13-2 in 5 innings at Vidalia. Justin Adams went 4-for-4 with two doubles and a fifth inning lead off home run into the trees past the right field fence.

2010   2-0- The Dawgs won 12-3 at Vidalia. Javec King hit a two-run homer over the right field fence in the first inning and singled in a run in the fourth. The senior also improved his record to 4-0 by pitching six innings allowing two earned runs and five hits with five strikeouts and two walks.

At Jacky Jones Field TCHS trailed 3-0 and had only two hits off right-hander Parker Fletcher entering the bottom of the fifth. Toombs stroked four two-out hits in that inning as Josh Allen singled in two runs and Berry Aldridge doubled in two more. Evan Adams walked with the bases loaded and Patrick Craft scored on a wild pitch as the Bulldogs scored six to win- 6-4 .

2011   0-2- The Bulldogs trailed 13-4 going to the bottom of the 4th. Berry Aldridge lit a fire for the Bulldogs with a well hit three-run homer over the left field fence. Alex Akins walked with the bases loaded, Cody Dowd (3-for-4 with 3 RBI’s) singled in 2 runs and Lance Mosley hit a sacrifice fly that scored one as the Bulldogs piled up seven runs and cut the Vidalia lead to 13-11. The Indians held on to a 17-13 win. Toombs had only 4 hits at Vidalia in a 12-5 loss.

2012 0-1-1 (Game at Vidalia was tied 4-4 after 7. It rained and the game was called and never finished). The Indians won an 8 inning game in Lyons 7-6. Trailing 3-2 going to the bottom of the fifth inning, Berry Aldridge (1-for-3, RBI) was hit by a pitch, James Ethredge (2-for-4) singled and Jeremy Beasley (1-for-3, 2 RBI’s) hit a grounder to second that scored Aldridge from third base to tie the game at 3. With two outs Brandon Driggers (2-for-3, RBI) singled to give TCHS a 4-3 lead.

2013   2-0- In Lyons TCHS won a 12 inning game 7-6 when Hunter Braddy singled to center field, with the bases loaded, to drive in pinch runner Chris Mobley. The Bulldogs scored two in the second on a RBI single by James Ethredge (3-for-5) and a sacrifice fly by Cody Dowd. TCHS surged into a 6-3 lead with a four run fourth. Christian Moore (2-for-6) stroked his first of two doubles, Bailey Salter (2-for-5) singled, and Braddy (3-for-3) hit a sacrifice fly and Ethredge singled in a run.

The Bulldogs scored four runs in the seventh inning in a 9-4 victory at Vidalia. James Ethredge was both the starting and winning pitcher and he also threw an inning in relief. The junior pitched a combined 6 1/3 innings allowing four hits, two earned runs with nine strikeouts and five walks.

2014   2-0- TCHS won 5-1 in Vidalia. Jeremy Beasley limited the Indians to 6 hits while striking out 7 and walking 3. Christian Moore went 3-for-3.  In the third inning he singled in the first run of the game. James Ethredge (1-for-3) hit a ball to the mound which scored the second run. Moore doubled in Hunter Braddy in the fifth.

At home Toombs rallied back from a 3-0 deficit and won 7-5. Christian Moore (1-for-3) led off with a single and Ben Brantley (1-for-3) followed with a double. Brandon Beckum (1-for-2) singled in a run and so did Blake Horton (2-for-2). James Ethredge (2-for-3) doubled in a pair of runs with a drive deep to right field.

2015   0-2- The Dawgs opened up the season at Vidalia and took a 4-0 lead. However, the Indians rallied and pulled out a 5-4 victory. In the rematch in Lyons, the Indians broke open a 1-1 game with a five-run fourth on their way to a 6-2 win.

2016   2-0-  The Bulldogs won 13-0 at Vidalia in 5 innings. D.R. Meadows went 3-for-3. He led off the first and second innings with a doubles, each to left field helping the Bulldogs score five runs in the first and six in the second. Meadows drove in a run inhis second at bat in the second inning with a sacrifice fly to deep left center. Meadows added a third double in the fourth driving in his second run of the game. On the mound Meadows pitched a 1-hitter. He struck out eight Indians and walked two.

In Lyons Toombs won 6-5 in walk-off style. Trailing 5-4 going to the bottom of the seventh, TCHS’s Lane Adams led off with a backside single off the glove of the shortstop, Logan McGowan stroked his third hit of the game with one down, moving Adams to third base, and then he stole second with two outs. Jordan Usher, who was 1-for-3 entering his seventh inning at bat, hit a 1-1 pitch to the shortstop. The throw to first base was low and took a high hop allowing Adams to score from second. The throw from first base to the plate was too late to catch a hustling McGowan.

2017   2-0- At Jacky Jones Field the Bulldogs stroked five doubles and those five two-baggers helped them score five runs in their 7-6 win over Vidalia. In fact George Lucke’s second double turned out to drive in the game-winning run in the sixth.

At Greg James Field the Dawgs hit two homers in back-to-back at bats by Martin Stephens and D.R. Meadows. Toombs also hit three doubles and stroked a season-high 14 hits in a 9-1 win.

2018   2-0- On the road the Bulldogs scored 7 runs in the second inning in a 14-9 win. The Dawgs opened their game changing frame with Brock Harrison and Dalton McBride each drawing a walk. Chase Musselman drove in the first run reaching on a fielders choice. Trey Cloud made it 2-1 Toombs with a backside single to left field. Chandler Lynn drove in a pair of runs with a single to center. A fifth run scored on a Vidalia error and a sixth on a Brock Harrison RBI single to left. Dalton McBride drove in the seventh run of the frame with a sacrifice fly to center field.

Senior Willie Campbell came off the bench in the bottom of the eighth inning, with two outs, and lined a 3-2 pitch into center field scoring senior Noah Anderson in Toombs County’s 6-5 win over rival Vidalia in a two-hour and 40 minute game played at Jacky Jones Field

Epic Bulldog wins under head coach Brian Fitzgerald

Brian Fitzgerald Photo Gallery

Toombs County Baseball 2018