March 20, 2014

Prep baseball: Solid pitching, timely hitting equals wins for Bruins

TUNNEL HILL — Pitching and defense aren’t problems for Northwest Whitfield High School’s baseball team — and the offense is catching up.

Northwest put together a four-run first inning and pitcher Andy Whisenant allowed just two hits in his complete-game performance as the Bruins beat Ridgeland 6-0 Thursday at Richard S. Chumley Field.

It was the second meeting this week in the teams’ three-game Sub-region 7B-4A series, and Northwest (6-3) used the same formula — great pitching, enough hitting — it employed in a 2-0 win over Ridgeland (7-3, 0-2) on Wednesday in Rossville. But the Bruins doubled their offensive production from the previous game in just the first inning Thursday.

After Whisenant led off by reaching on an error and stealing second base, Diego Peralta drove home the first run with a double to left field. Third baseman Edwin Hernandez followed with an RBI single and first baseman Seth Pierce made it 3-0 with an RBI triple. Catcher Caleb Shiflett’s RBI single up the middle was the fourth straight hit and fifth of the inning.

Returning to the mound with a lead helped Whisenant’s nerves.

“That helped me get more relaxed and hit my spots instead of stressing,” the senior said. “You (still) don’t want to give up runs — it’s not all right — but having that lead is better as a pitcher.”

Ridgeland had threatened in the first when center fielder Chase Crawford led off with a single, moved to second on a fielder’s choice and stole third, but Whisenant struck out left fielder Austin Delay to end the inning. Kevin Long, Ridgeland’s catcher, reached third in the second inning before Whisenant struck out Crawford for the third out.

Whisenant struck out seven and walked three. His performance came the day after junior left-hander Logan Hilton struck out nine, walked one and allowed three hits in a complete game.

“You can’t ask any more out of our pitchers the last two days,” Northwest coach Todd Middleton said. “It’s two complete games of throwing strikes, getting outs and the defense doing its job.”

Ridgeland designated hitter Jacob Russell reached third in the fourth, but Whisenant struck out Long to once again keep the Panthers scoreless in the series. Northwest, which won sub-region and region titles last season, will go for a sweep of Ridgeland at 5:30 p.m. today in Rossville.

“We need to adjust, especially with two strikes on us, and put the ball in play,” Ridgeland coach Scott Harden said. “In the past two games, we’ve had runners on second and third with a chance to do something, and we’ve been unsuccessful in both games.”

The Bruins’ lead grew in the fifth when Peralta started with a home run down the right-field line. Hernandez followed with a single, and Pierce’s RBI double to deep center made it 6-0 in Northwest’s favor.

Peralta finished 3-for-3 and was a triple shy of the cycle. Hernandez and Pierce each went 2-for-3 as the Bruins collected eight hits.

The Bruins believe their offense can improve. Northwest left six runners on base and three in scoring position Thursday.

“We just need to swing the bats better,” Middleton said. “We hit some balls hard that didn’t fall today and yesterday, but we’re leaving too many runners on base. I’m definitely not satisfied with what we’re doing at the plate right now.”

Dalton 9, Southeast Whitfield 6: Two days after an 11-1 victory at Southeast, the Catamounts (7-3) improved to 2-0 in Sub-region 7B-4A with a home win behind starting pitcher Jackson Bell and a five-run fourth inning.

Bell (4-0) allowed five earned runs on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts before being chased after 5 2/3 innings. Shaw Richardson helped the Cats escape the sixth, walking one before recording the inning’s final out, and Cole Shelton pitched the seventh. He allowed one hit and struck out one.

“Jackson threw well,” Dalton coach Shane Ramsey said. “There were some plays that we should have made in (the sixth), but Jackson threw a great game. We were up 9-1 going into the sixth.

“Shaw came in in a tight situation and got us out of the inning, and Cole was what he’s been all year — he comes in and does the job.”

Dalton scored three runs in the sixth and one in the third. Southeast’s lone run outside its five-run sixth came in the third.

Maddox Houghton went 2-for-3 with three RBIs, while Shelton was 2-for-3 and drove in a run, Charlie Martin was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI, and Jase Chastain doubled and drove in a run.

Southeast’s Ty Pendley went 2-for-3, while Daniel Chavarria had a  hit and an RBI sacrifice fly, Justin Cooper had an RBI double and Colter Faith added an RBI single.

“We swung the bats better tonight than the other night,” Southeast coach Brad Lofton said. “Pitching-wise, we have to cut down on our walks. We have to throw strikes.”

Chase Jenkins pitched three innings for the Raiders, allowing three earned runs on three hits and six walks while striking out two. Pendley pitched to three batters, walking two and hitting one. Noah Ramsey pitched three perfect innings with five strikeouts.

Dalton is at Southeast with a 5:30 p.m. first pitch today to wrap up the three-game league series.

“The games are intense,” coach Ramsey said. “I like to see how kids react to that. Southeast has got a great ballclub, so I like to see how my kids react to that when we put them in tight spots. They’ve reacted well.”

North Murray 3, Adairsville 0: Aaron Granger struck out 11 in a complete-game victory to lead the Mountaineers (5-8) in their Region 5-3A opener on the road.

Granger, a senior who improved to 3-1, allowed six hits with no walks despite not having any run support until late in the game.

“He makes a huge difference,” Mountaineers coach David Redmond said. “He is our leader. We knew we would go as Aaron went and our team, when he’s on the mound, just steps up. Confidence comes from the mound and goes out to every player.”

North Murray scored a pair of runs in the sixth — on a sacrifice fly by Blake Davis and a single by Lake Burriss — and picked up its final run in the seventh on Mason Pittman’s safety squeeze bunt.

Also for the Mountaineers, Brody Frazier and Brady Harper each went 2-for-3.

Sonoraville 5, Coahulla Creek 1: The Colts (3-7) scored a run in the fourth to cut Sonoraville’s lead to 2-1 in the Region 5-3A opener in Varnell, but they allowed three runs in the fifth and had trouble at the plate throughout.

Hayden Lock finished with a double and Michael Ward added a hit and scored the lone run for the Colts, who struck out 11 times.

“Offensively, we struggled all night,” Coahulla Creek coach Michael Bolen said. “We were challenged and did not respond. We need to do a better job competing at the plate.”

Zack Glines pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on six hits and three walks with a strikeout. Braiden Jacobs threw 2 1/3 innings of no-hit baseball and struck out three.

Pepperell 4, Murray County 0: Pitcher Damon Roberts scattered five hits and allowed just two earned runs, but the Indians couldn’t generate any offense in the Region 7-2A loss. No other information from the game was available.

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