By Devin Golden
Will Erwin didn’t have his best pitching performance on Wednesday, but the morale of Dalton High School’s baseball team is still the best it has been all year.
Erwin and the Catamounts won 10-1 at home against the LaFayette Ramb-lers. The win sweeps a three-game se-ries, extends Dalton’s winning streak to nine games and clinches at least third place in Sub-region 7B-4A, which ensures at minimum a chance to play for a state playoff berth.
Dalton (10-6, 9-0) led 2-1 entering the fifth inning and scored eight runs through the next two innings to blow the game open. Tyler Britton’s RBI groundout gave the Cats a 3-1 lead, and Jake Roberts’ two-out, two-run double only made it better for Dalton.
“Confidence-wise, we’re really good,” Dalton coach Shane Ramsey said. “We’ve had a tendency to score runs in bunches during this winning streak.”
The scoring continued in the sixth when LaFayette (5-11, 2-7) used four pitchers who walked three batters, hit four others and allowed five runs to score despite only one hit.
The Ramblers were the opposite, not taking advantage of runners on base. In each inning, LaFayette had a runner reach base but only scored on Erwin in the first.
Dalton’s starting pitcher went the distance to get the victory, allowing six hits and six walks. He struck out 14 and faced a runner in scoring position in each inning except for the sixth.
“I was a little tired,” Erwin said. “I just came off strep throat. ... It doesn’t really faze me, though. I’m not being cocky. I guess it’s just confidence. Those runners don’t really matter to me.”
The champions of each sub-region are guaranteed the region’s top two state playoff seeds and play one another for the region title. Teams finishing No. 2 and No. 3 in the sub-regions cross over and play one another in a three-game series for the final two spots. The last two series for the Cats are rival Northwest Whitfield — also undefeated in sub-region play — next week and Heritage-Catoosa the week after. Those are the only two teams that can finish ahead of Dalton in the league standings and a big reason for that is the Cats’ pitching. In the past six games, Dalton has allowed just eight runs.
“He didn’t (have his best stuff),” Ramsey said of Erwin, “but all my pitchers have proven they can fight through stuff.”
After LaFayette scored in the first, Dalton responded right away. Brandon Dale led off the bottom half of the inning with a single, stole second, advanced to third on Britton’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Grant Sane’s groundout.
Dalton took the lead in the third inning. Britton’s two-out single preceded Sane’s single, and a fielding error allowed Britton to score.
“It definitely helped out,” Erwin said of tying the game in the first. “But I wasn’t worried. I knew we’d come through and get runs later in the game.”
Dale finished 2-for-3 with three runs scored. Britton went 1-for-2 with two runs scored and an RBI. Sane had two RBIs, while Erwin added one. Kaleb Hill and Charlie Martin each had an RBI and scored once, Dakota Tankersley scored once and Matt Wells scored twice.