On Thursday at LaFayette High School, Northwest Whitfield’s baseball team had what coach Todd Middleton termed a “lapse” on the way to their first sub-region loss of the season.
The Bruins, who were already guaranteed of playing Cass next week for the Region 7-4A championship, were back to business as usual Saturday when the Ramblers visited Richard S. Chumley Field.
Northwest pitcher Cameron Alday gave up just four hits, and the Bruins celebrated senior day by pushing across runs in each inning except the fifth on their way to a 9-1 victory against LaFayette (9-14, 6-9) in their Sub-region 7B-4A and regular season finale.
The Bruins (19-4, 14-1) host Sub-region 7A-4A champion Cass in a best-of-three series for the region title and the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A state playoffs. They’ll play a doubleheader at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in Tunnel Hill, with the potential rubber game scheduled for Thursday at the same time and location.
Both teams are guaranteed of hosting in the first round of the state playoffs, but the winner would also have that privilege in at least the second round.
“We’ve tried to play every game like it is a championship game this season, so it won’t be any different against Cass,” said Bruins senior center fielder Brandon Smith.
Smith went 3-for-3 with a pair of RBIs on Saturday.
“We’ve played ball together forever it seems, and we know each others’ strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “We play well off of each other and know what we need to do.”
Northwest took advantage of plenty of opportunities on Saturday, scoring runs in a variety of ways, and the first four came off just two hits.
Smith got things started in the first with a screamer to third that LaFayette’s Brice Cleverly thought he had picked, but the umpire ruled the play a trap. Smith went to second on a grounder to first, stole third, then scored on a Diego Peralta groundout to short.
A pair of walks and an error in the second inning brought in two more North-west runs, and Kyle Brock’s single in the third drove in A.J. Orozco, who had walked earlier in the inning.
The Bruins loaded the bases in the fourth and chased pitcher Josh Manning without hitting the ball out of the infield after Alday drew a walk, Smith had an infield hit to the left side and Brady Middleton laid a bunt down the third-base line. Peralta drove in a run on a fielder’s choice, and Middleton came in to score after a pickoff play at second went off the shortstop’s glove and into the outfield. Peralta later scored on a wild pitch.
On the mound, Alday cruised, facing just three over the minimum through four innings. LaFayette scored its lone run in the fifth when Clayton Lane led off with a double, moved to third on an infield hit and scored on a sacrifice fly to center. Northwest ended the scoring in the sixth as Smith scored on an RBI single from Middleton, who came home thanks to Aaron Ball’s two-out single.
“We had a lapse on Thursday at their place, but I think we got it back on track today,” coach Middleton said. “We executed and came back with consistency today. Our guys are a pretty even-keeled bunch, and we haven’t done anything different throughout the year. The biggest thing now is staying focused.”
• Dalton 6, Heritage-Catoosa 1: The Catamounts (11-12, 10-5 Sub-region 7B-4A) avenged two losses from earlier this week by pouncing on the visiting Generals early — they scored three runs in the first and never trailed — to close the regular season with a win.
Matt Wells went 2-for-2 with an RBI, Kaleb Hill had a hit and drove in a pair of runs and Michael O’Brien added a hit and an RBI.
Wells pitched five innings for the Cats, allowing one earned run on four hits. He struck out four and walked three. Dale pitched 1 2/3 innings, striking out four, while Will Erwin recorded the final out via strikeout on senior day at Dalton.
“That was big,” Cats coach Shane Ramsey said. “It’s big momentum for us. We got beat in nine innings (Thursday) night and should’ve won that game. We’re just glad we have a chance to get into state.”
Heritage locked up the sub-region’s No. 2 seed on Thursday, while Dalton owns the third seed. The Cats will play at Sub-region 7B’s No. 2 seed next week — the Gen-erals host 7B’s No. 3 seed — in a best-of-three series to determine Region 7-4A’s third and fourth Class 4A state playoff seeds. A doubleheader on Wednesday would be followed by a third game, if necessary, on Thursday.
Ramsey said Dalton will face either River Ridge or Cedartown.
• Lakeview-Fort Ogle-thorpe 1, North Murray 0: The Mountaineers blinked in the Region 5-3A extra-innings battle in Chatsworth, with the Warriors scoring in the 10th without the benefit of a hit.
In the final inning, an LFO batter was hit by a pitch to reach base with one out. The next batter drew a walk, and a passed ball pushed both the runners to second and third, setting up what proved to be the game-winning sacrifice fly. North Murray (9-12, 6-6) put a runner on with one out in the bottom of the inning but failed to advance him.
North Murray wasted a strong effort by starting pitcher Aaron Granger, who allowed four hits and a walk while striking out nine in seven innings. Ethan Lents worked the rest of the way, allowing a run on two walks, a hit batter and a hit.
Jared Campbell went 2-for-4 as the only Mountaineer to reach base more than once. North Murray tallied eight hits but scattered them and had trouble moving baserunners around.
“We played solid defense,” North Murray coach Steve Granger said. “It’s just that our approaches at the plate weren’t our best approaches of the year, let’s just put it that way. We would put runners on and would swing at the first pitch. We wouldn’t work the count at all. We were just a little bit overly aggressive. Sometimes you win that battle and sometimes you don’t. Today we didn’t.”
Coach Granger did say the Mountaineers remain in good shape to finish in the top four of the region standings and earn a berth in the Class 3A state playoffs.
n Murray County did not report results from its scheduled home game against Trion by The Daily Citizen’s deadline.