February 28, 2014

Baseball roundup: Northwest pounds on Creek, 11-0

Marty Kirkland
martykirkland@daltoncitizen.com

TUNNEL HILL — Northwest Whitfield High School baseball coach Todd Middleton has been around the game long enough to know he can wait on his team’s hitting to improve if the pitching and defense are good.

Two out of three have been more than enough for the Bruins so far this season.

Northwest needed just five innings to put together an 11-0 mercy-rule victory over Coahulla Creek on Friday at Richard S. Chumley Field, with the Bruins making the best of a bad day in the field for the visiting Colts.

“We didn’t hit the ball great, but I’m happy with the pitching again,” Middleton said. “Defensively, we made most of the easy plays ... Offensively, we’re not hitting it great right now but I expect it to come around.”

Coahulla Creek (1-2) committed six errors in the non-region matchup, including four in a four-run first inning, and the Bruins (2-0) wasted few scoring opportunities as they played error-free defense and put together another solid effort on the mound.

Three days after Logan Hilton and Seth Pierce combined for a no-hitter in a 4-0 win against Christian Heritage, only Hayden Lock’s leadoff single to start the game kept the Bruins from another row of zeroes in the hits surrendered column. A double play followed Lock’s hit to help Phillip Hammonds face the minimum in his three innings of work — he struck out two and the ball never left the infield — and reliever Andy Whisenant worked a 1-2-3 fourth before escaping a jam in the fifth.

Zack Glines, Trent Collins and Luke Brock drew walks as Whisenant’s control faltered in that inning, sending Lock to the plate with the bases loaded with two outs. On a full count, Whisenant caught Lock looking and set up Northwest’s final trip to the plate. Whisenant had three strikeouts in his two innings on the mound.

Hammonds was pulled, Middleton said, because of the Bruins’ lighter schedule to start the season — two games this week and two games next week — and the coach’s desire to spread the innings around early.

“Pitching and defense are what we’re going to win with,” Middleton said.

Northwest had six hits — four of them came in a five-run fifth, when Diego Peralta’s two-run single ended the game — although no Bruin had more than one. Caleb Shiflett and Omar Hernandez had back-to-back doubles with one out in the fifth, with Shiflett scoring on Hernandez’s gap hit to right-center field, Will Brock had an infield single and a sacrifice bunt, and Whisenant reached base three times, scoring every time.

“Hitting’s all about timing and ours just isn’t there yet,” Middleton said.

The Bruins made contact enough to create offensive chances, though, a benefit Coahulla Creek starter Glines didn’t have. Glines, who went three innings, allowed six unearned runs as he gave up two hits and as many walks and also hit a batter.

Michael Ward pitched the final two innings, allowing a walk in addition to four hits.

Colts coach Michael Bolen, who brought back just four starters from last season, believes his team will absorb the lessons Friday’s disappointing outcome provided. After putting together what he deemed a tough non-region schedule, he warned the Colts that giving opponents extra outs could prove dangerous.

“Baseball’s a game of momentum and it’s all contagious,” Bolen said in reference to his team’s defensive struggles. “So whenever you’ve got a younger squad, that’s definitely something that can affect them. The bright side of all of it is there wasn’t one thing out here that happened tonight that’s not fixable.”

Dalton 14, Christian Heritage 4: Dalton coach Shane Ramsey has been talking about the faith he has in his younger players since the start of practice this season.

Against the Lions at home, Dalton got its first win in three tries to start the season thanks in large part to those younger players. Freshman Cole Shelton was 3-for-3 with three RBIs, and freshmen pitchers Tucker Sumner and Sam Step scattered six hits on the mound. Another freshman — Nik Malcheski — was 2-for-4 with an RBI.

The game ended after six innings because of the mercy rule.

“Our younger guys looked good and I like what we are doing right now,” Ramsey said. “It is just one game, but that is the way you have to do it with younger players. I really liked how they responded from the last time we played Christian Heritage. We only made one error, so we cleaned that up quite a bit.”

On Monday, the Cats had four errors as they opened their season with a 15-14 loss to Christian Heritage.

Jake Stokes led the scoring off with a solo homer in the first for the Lions, but Dalton responded with three in the bottom of the inning and then put together seven runs in the fifth before closing it out with a single run in the sixth. Jake Roberts had a two-run homer for Dalton, while Kaleb Hill (three runs scored) and Charlie Martin were each 3-for-5.

Sumner was the winning pitcher, allowing three hits and striking out four while going four innings.

Calhoun 11, North Murray 1: The Mountaineers (2-3) were held to just five hits and the game was shortened to five innings by the mercy rule.

North Murray’s lone run came in the bottom of the second as Lake Burris singed and moved to second on a passed ball. Brady Harper followed with a single that was misplayed in the outfield, allowing Burris to score.

• Results from Murray County’s game at Ridgeland were not reported by The Daily Citizen’s deadline.