April 3, 2014

Area prep baseball roundup: Bruins take two of three from Raiders

A day after Northwest Whitfield and Southeast Whitfield combined for 30 runs in a high school baseball doubleheader, pitching stood out more in the third game of the Sub-region 7B-4A series.

That phase of the game has been a strength for Northwest all season, and it didn’t let the Bruins down Wednesday at Southeast.

Phillip Hammonds and Seth Pierce combined on the mound to limit the Raiders offensively and Northwest’s hitting woke up with Omar Hernandez’s two-run home run as the Bruins won 7-3.

On Tuesday at Northwest, the Bruins (12-4, 8-1 Sub-region 7B-4A) rallied to win the opening game 10-9 before Southeast (11-7, 4-5) took the second game, 9-2. But after ample scoring in the first two games, pitching ruled for the first three innings Wednesday.

Hernandez’s homer off Southeast’s Chase Jenkins in the fourth put the Bruins ahead 2-1 and caused a ripple throughout the lineup.

“I was a little nervous because the pitcher had two strikes and two outs on me,” Hernandez said. “I just regained my focus. I think we all were a little nervous, but after the home run we started hitting like we can.”

Andy Whisenant’s RBI single later in the inning brought Logan Hilton home for a 3-1 lead. Northwest ended Jenkins’ day in the fifth when Pierce’s RBI double scored Diego Peralta for a 4-1 edge, and Caleb Shiflett’s two-run double off Daniel Chavarria made it 6-1 in Northwest’s favor. Walker Maret ended the inning’s barrage with a single to bring home Shiflett and make it 7-1.

The win keeps Northwest tied atop the sub-region standings with Dalton (13-4, 8-1) and sets up next week’s three-game series between the two rivals. Southeast also has an important set next week as it plays Heritage-Catoosa with a chance to close ground or even outright move into third place in the sub-region.

At the end of the regular season, Region 7-4A’s sub-region champions will face off in a best-of-three series for the region title, although both are guaranteed spots in the state playoffs. The second-place finisher in each sub-region faces the third-place team from the other side in best-of-three action, with each winner advancing to state but the losers done for the year.

Southeast coach Brad Lofton remains optimistic despite dropping series to both Northwest and Dalton, which swept the Raiders in the opening week of sub-region play. Southeast swept LaFayette — which is winless in the sub-region — last week.

“Coming into this series, I told the guys winning two out of three would be great,” Lofton said. “Getting one win in this series is big for our season. We need to be ready for Heritage next week.”

Southeast loaded the bases with one out in the fifth, and Colter Faith’s sacrifice fly brought home Keaton McCutchen to make it 7-2. That was all the Raiders could do in the inning against Pierce, who went 3 2/3 innings in relief and allowed two runs off two hits and four walks with five strikeouts. Hammonds started and went 3 1/3 innings, allowing one unearned run off two hits and three walks.

“Yesterday was the first day our pitching hasn’t been as good as it has been all year,” Middleton said. “We were a little off. ... I’m proud of getting out of this one with two wins out of three. ”

The Raiders scored the game’s first and last runs, but the middle innings were the glaring difference. Chavarria put Southeast ahead 1-0 in the third with a well-executed squeeze bunt to bring home Hunter Young, who was pinch-running for Jenkins. Faith finished his two-RBI day with a single in the seventh to bring home Ty Pendley, but the Raiders missed opportunities along the way, leaving eight runners in scoring position.

“I thought we swung the bats decent and executed small ball,” Lofton said. “We just need to be able to hit with runners in scoring position. I thought our pitchers did well.”

Jenkins worked four innings and allowed six runs (four earned) on seven hits and two walks. He was hurt by two errors in Northwest’s three-run fourth inning.

Chavarria didn’t record an out and allowed one run and two hits in his two batters faced. Noah Ramsey pitched three scoreless innings in relief and allowed two hits while striking out two.

Dalton 10, LaFayette 2: A day after winning 20-0, the host Catamounts continued hitting the ball and earned a three-game sweep of the sub-region series.

After LaFayette (3-14, 0-9) took a 1-0 lead in the first, Dalton tied the score in the bottom half of the inning. LaFayette grabbed a 2-1 lead in the second, but Dalton tied the game at 2 in the bottom half and ran away with a four-run third.

Dalton scored once more in the fifth and tacked on three runs in the sixth.

The Cats’ Jase Chastain and Maddux Houghton each finished 2-for-4 — Chastain drove in two runs — while Jake Roberts had a solo home run. Charlie Martin, Brock Nelson and Cole Shelton each had a hit and drove in a run.

Dalton used six pitchers in the game. Shelton started but lasted just 1/3 of an inning, allowing one earned run on a hit and a walk. He struck out one and left the game after being hit by a line drive. Dalton coach Shane Ramsey said Shelton was not seriously hurt.

Nelson earned the win, going 1 2/3 innings and allowing one run on two walks while striking out three.

Tucker Sumner pitched two innings, walking three and striking out one. Blake Evans pitched a perfect fifth and struck out one. Shaw Richardson pitched the sixth, allowing two hits but no runs while striking out one. Kaleb Hill pitched the final inning, striking out two and walking one.

“I wanted to throw Cole and Brock,” Ramsey said. “Just the way it worked out, I ended up (using a lot more guys).”

Ramsey said next week’s series with Northwest doesn’t hold any additional significance just because it’s a close rival.

However, it is an important week for sub-region title implications.

“The winner of this series will be in the driver’s seat,” Ramsey said.

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