By Chris Whitfield
TUNNEL HILL — Northwest Whitfield High School’s baseball team got out the broom against its biggest rival Friday night and earned a spot in the state playoffs in the process.
The Bruins got the key two-out hits while Dalton left 10 men on base as Northwest won 6-3 at Richard S. Chumley Field to sweep the week’s Sub-region 7B-4A series between the teams, who began the week tied atop the sub-region standings.
Now the Bruins are guaranteed of the sub-region championship and will face the No. 1 seed from Sub-region 7A-4A in a three-game series for the region title on April 24-25. Both of the No. 1 seeds are guaranteed of making the Class 4A state playoffs and hosting in at least the opening round.
Dalton (10-8, 9-3) plays a three-game series with Heritage-Catoosa next week, and the Cats must take at least two of three games to lock up the sub-region’s No. 2 seed and host the No. 3 seed from the other side with a state playoffs berth on the line. If Heritage were to win the series, then Dalton would drop to the No. 3 seed and have to travel in the region playoffs.
Northwest (17-3, 12-0) will play LaFayette in its final series of the regular season next week.
“It is good to get that top spot and know that we have a state playoff berth as well,” said Northwest coach Todd Middleton. “We will be able to rest some people next week and get ready for the region playoffs.”
The series finale was a much closer game than the two earlier meetings. Northwest won the opener 12-2 in five innings at home on Tuesday and won 11-5 Wednesday at Dalton.
Northwest pitcher Seth Pierce worked on two days rest after throwing fewer than 70 pitches in the opener, but he wasn’t nearly as sharp. Missing away from right-handed hitters, Pierce struggled in both the first and second innings.
A leadoff single by Brandon Dale got Dalton started, and Charlie Martin reached when the throw to first on his sacrifice bunt sailed down the right field line. Grant Sane drew a walk to load the bases, but Pierce responded with a strikeout and induced a grounder to short that was turned into a double play.
In the second, a walk, sacrifice bunt and two more walks loaded the bases with one out, but after pitching into trouble, Pierce pitched out of it with a pair of strikeouts.
“We had our chances and just didn’t take advantage of them,” Dalton coach Shane Ramsey said. “But after the last two games, I was real proud that the boys came out and fought today.”
Northwest scored in each of the first four innings, with A.J. Orozco getting a two-out RBI single in the first and Diego Peralta driving in a pair of runs with a two-out double in the fourth. Two walks, an error on a bunt single and a fielder’s choice gave Northwest two runs in the second for a 3-2 lead, and Orozco had another RBI single in the third.
Dalton scored all of its runs in the fifth on a two-run double by Jake Roberts and a Northwest error, the Bruins’ second miscue of the inning. But Pierce struck out the side in the sixth and sat Dalton down 1-2-3 in the seventh.
“This was good for Seth,” Middleton said. “He hasn’t had to go the distance in a long time, and this will help out a lot to get him used to throwing a little longer.”
• Coahulla Creek 8, Gordon Central 0: Colts pitchers Zack Glines and Blake Phillips combined for 14 strikeouts in a dominating Region 5-3A victory in Varnell.
Glines started and struck out nine while allowing three hits and two walks in four innings before giving way to Phillips, who worked the final three innings, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out five.
Phillips also helped Coahulla Creek (7-12, 4-6) at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Braiden Jacobs was 2-for-3 with and RBI, while Patrick Malone and Cody Wood each had a hit and drove in a run.
• Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe 3, North Murray 2: The Warriors scored in the bottom of the seventh inning to push the Mountaineers (7-10, 4-5 Region 5-3A) below .500 in league play.
Jared Goswick pitched four innings for North Murray, allowing two runs (one earned) off five hits and three walks while striking out three. Cole Vaughn threw the final 2 2/3 innings, allowing one run on three walks while striking out two.
On offense, Jared Campbell had a two-run home run, while Aaron Granger went 2-for-3 with a double. Lake Burris was 2-for-2 with two walks.
• Gordon Lee 11, Christian Heritage 1: The Lions trailed just 2-1 before the Trojans’ eight-run fourth inning put the home team firmly in command.
Michael McKinney’s double in the third inning set up Jake Stokes’ two-out run-scoring single, but that was all of the offense for Christian Heritage (10-8, 7-5 Region 6-A). Gordon Lee had 11 hits.
• North Murray boys 3, Christian Heritage 0: The Mountaineers (11-2) visited the Lions and scored a pair of second-half goals to pull away in the non-region victory.
Freddie Urbina broke a scoreless tie with an unassisted goal midway through the first half to give North Murray a 1-0 lead at the break. With 28 minutes left in the second half, the Mountaineers got their second goal from Tony Maldonaldo off of an assist from Urbina. Ismael Cruz capped off the scoring with the assist coming from Arturo Garcia.
Manuel Gonzalez had the shutout in goal.
Christian Heritage (1-7) coach John Seehorn said standout efforts for his team included Hunter Dixon, who played defender for the first time. Christian Joseph had all three of the Lions’ shots on goal.
• Christian Heritage girls 1, North Murray 0: Lindsey Jones cleaned up a shot that rebounded off North Murray’s keeper midway through the first half in the non-league matchup, and the Lady Lions made the lead stand for their first victory of the season.
Sarah Massengale was in goal for the shutout for Christian Heritage (1-7). North Murray dropped to 1-10.
• Northwest boys 4, Rome 1: Cielo Nunez scored a pair of goals as the Bruins (11-4) outshot the Wolves 30-6 in the non-region matchup.
David Perez and Giovanni Aguero each had a goal and an assist, while Angel Resendiz and Christian Perez each had an assist.
• Rome girls 5, Northwest 3: The Lady Bruins led 3-2 at halftime, but Rome rallied in the final 40 minutes to deal Northwest just its second loss in 10 games this season.
Juliana Gomez, Ashlee Huyhn and Nancy Paz scored for the Lady Bruins — who had 13 shots on goal — while keeper Deysi Garcia made 15 saves.
• Dalton boys 3, Calhoun 2: The Cats (12-2) edged Calhoun behind wins from No. 1 singles Nathan Bryant, 6-4, 6-2, and No. 2 Shazman Ali, 6-1, 6-2, as well as a doubles win from No. 2 P.J. Bhatter and Efra Uscanga, 6-2, 7-5.
• Calhoun girls 3, Dalton 2: The Lady Cats (11-3) fell despite singles wins from No. 1 Courtney Morton, 6-7 (7-5), 6-4, 10-4, and No. 2 Kara Pendley, 7-5, 6-1.
Track and field
• Northwest was scheduled to attend the Chattanooga Optimist Meet at Walker Valley High School, Cleveland, Tenn., but did not report results by The Daily Citizen’s deadline.