April 18, 2014

Generally disappointed

Catamounts on the road after third-place finish

RINGGOLD — Dalton High School’s baseball team started the fifth inning of Friday’s crucial Sub-region 7B-4A game against Heritage-Catoosa with four consecutive hits.

The only problem for the Catamounts was that was where their good hitting started and stopped.

Heritage freshman Alex Barbee pitched a complete game as the Generals won 7-2 and clinched a second-place finish in the sub-region over Dalton for the second year in a row. With the win, Heritage will host next week’s region playoffs series against Cass. Dalton finishes third in the sub-region and will travel to play a best-of-three series against either Cedartown or River Ridge, whichever team finishes second in Sub-region 7A.

Northwest Whitfield, which clinched the Sub-region 7B title last week, plays a three-game set against whichever school wins the 7A title for the region championship. That won’t be decided until Monday when Cedartown plays Cass and River Ridge plays Pickens.

Ahead 6-0 thanks to a six-run third inning, Barbee lost his no-hit bid in the fifth inning with a leadoff double to Jase Chastain. Brock Nelson followed with an RBI double, Kaleb Hill slapped a single to right field and Tucker Sumner brought Nelson home with a single but was thrown out trying to turn his single into a double.

Barbee stayed in the game and retired the next eight Dalton batters. Allowing just four hits and three walks, he only pitched to five batters above the minimum of 21 and struck out six.

“We didn’t put any pressure on them,” Dalton coach Shane Ramsey said. “Their kid pitched well. ... They’ve pitched well all series. We talked about wanting to set the tone early. Normally we do, but we didn’t today.”

Dalton freshman Sam Stepp looked similarly strong to begin the game. With one out in the bottom of the third, though, Heritage bunched together enough hits and walks to ruin his day.

Logan Haga’s RBI single broke the scoreless tie and preceded Andrew Morton’s sacrifice fly. Tyler Meroney’s bases-loaded single brought two more home, ending Stepp’s day at pitcher in favor of left fielder Cole Shelton. Damian Goins’ bases-loaded single scored two more, putting the Generals ahead 6-0 by the time the inning was over.

That, plus the one run scored in the sixth, was more than enough run support for Barbee, who earned the start in a playoff-like game.

Dalton and Heritage entered the series tied for second and split the first two games, and the freshman has been the No. 3 pitcher all season.

“We haven’t shuffled the rotation around for any reason all year,” Heritage coach Eric Beagles said. “There’s no reason to start now. He’s been our Friday guy ever since region play started. He’s pretty much proven it and has always kept his mind right.”

Stepp allowed six earned runs off just three hits and four walks. Shelton pitched 2 1/3 innings, allowing two hits and two walks while striking out four. Jake Roberts pitched the sixth, allowing an earned run off one hit and one walk while striking out one.

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