April 1, 2014

Rivals split the bill

Bruins take baseball opener, Raiders win nightcap

Chris Whitfield

TUNNEL HILL — Whitfield County rivals Southeast and Northwest both came away from Tuesday’s Sub-region 7B-4A doubleheader with wins.

But it was the visiting Southeast Raiders who walked off of Richard S. Chumley Field with their heads held higher, accomplishing what no one else in the sub-region has been able to this season.

It was also something this entire group of Raiders had never accomplished — beating the Bruins.

Behind a strong pitching effort from Rhett Harper and an offensive combination that coach Brad Lofton described as “power and havoc,” the Raiders beat the Bruins 9-2 in the nightcap to give Northwest its first sub-region loss of the year.

It was a Southeast victory on the baseball diamond over Northwest for the first time since Lofton became the school’s coach in 2009.

“It is a big boost for our confidence,” Harper said after scattering eight hits on the mound and going 2-for-2 at the plate in the second game.

“We came in wanting to at least split, and it gives us a big push if we can win at home.”

The two teams play again today at 5 p.m. at Southeast to complete the three-game series.

In the opening game, the Bruins (11-4, 7-1 Sub-region 7B-4A) rallied for a 10-9 win on a walk-off RBI double from Diego Peralta.

It was a game in which neither team came away feeling good. The teams combined for 19 runs on 14 hits with 14 walks, four errors and several other mistakes.

Southeast (11-6, 4-4) led 6-0 after its half of the third inning despite having just three hits, thanks to a pair of Northwest errors. The Raiders gave it back as the Bruins went up 7-6 in the bottom half on the benefit of just two hits, six walks and a pair of Southeast errors.

In the fourth, Southeast’s Blake Foster, who was intentionally walked twice, greeted Northwest reliever Seth Pierce’s first pitch with a towering, two-run homer to right field, but the Bruins tied the game 8-all in the bottom half on an RBI single by Walker Maret.

Harper had a solo homer to lead off the fifth, putting the Raiders ahead 9-8, but the Bruins tied the game without benefit of a hit in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Will Brock struck out swinging but reached first when the ball got behind Southeast catcher Abram Stanley.

Two more passed balls during Peralta’s at-bat moved Brock to third, and he scored on Peralta’s groundout.

Pierce handled the Raiders the rest of the way to earn the win, getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth and working around a one-out double by Chase Jenkins.

Southeast was led by Foster and Jenkins, who were both 2-for-4. Peralta drove in four runs on his 2-for-3 performance, and Maret was 2-for-3 with three RBIs.

“We got the win, but we certainly were not satisfied with the way we played,” Northwest coach Todd Middleton said. “There are no excuses, we just didn’t get the job done in the second game. They are a good-hitting team, and we gave them too many opportunities.”

In the second game, pitching was less of a problem as Harper went the distance for Southeast and Northwest starter Andy Whisenant pitched six innings. The Raiders never trailed, jumping ahead in the first. Foster singled to left and brought in Ty Pendley, who had led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Daniel Chavarria.

Northwest countered in the bottom of the inning with Pierce taking advantage of a Raider error to drive in Peralta with a two-out single. But Southeast added two in the second with a pair of walks, an errant pickoff attempt at third and a single by Foster. The Raiders didn’t trail again.

Pierce did all of Northwest’s damage, connecting on a solo homer in the fourth and finishing 3-for-3.

Like Harper, Jenkins was 2-for-2 in the nightcap and Pendley was 2-for-3 with four runs scored. Colter Faith was 2-for-4 with a ground-rule double, while Foster was 2-for-5. The Raiders also executed three sacrifice bunts and had two bunt singles.

“If our guys leading off and in the bottom of the order can cause some havoc, that sets things up for Blake and Rhett and our power hitters,” Lofton said. “We executed our bunts, and that caused a little of the havoc.”