March 18, 2014

Freshman Stepps up

Defense, run support also key for Dalton vs. Southeast

Pitching in a league game for the first time in his high school career, Dalton freshman Sam Stepp was hoping to find a way to calm his nerves before taking the mound for the Catamounts on Tuesday at Southeast Whitfield.

His teammates found a good way to take the pressure off as soon as the game started.

In the Sub-region 7B-4A opener for both teams, the Cats scored three runs off of Southeast senior pitcher Rhett Harper in the first inning, and that was more than enough for Stepp, a left-handed off-speed specialist.

Stepp held Southeast to one run on three hits in five innings of work, and senior catcher Grant Sane was 4-for-4 with a 3-run homer, a double and five RBIs as the Cats rolled to an 11-1 win. The game ended after six innings because of the Georgia High School Association’s mercy rule.

Dalton (6-3) will host Thursday in the second of three meetings this week with the Raiders (7-3), who host again on Friday.

“Sam is giving us what he has been giving us all season long,” Dalton coach Shane Ramsey said of Stepp, who improved to 2-1. “We swung the ball well behind him and put runs on the board when we had some chances. We wanted to score early and put the pressure on them and take some of it off of Sam. I was pleased.”

While not an overpowering pitcher — Stepp had three strikeouts in the game — he was able to keep Southeast hitters off-balance with his array of off-speed pitches. In one at-bat with Southeast No. 3 hitter Blake Foster, Stepp threw four straight curveballs and two changeups off of the plate.

The Cats also did a good job defensively behind Stepp, committing just one error, so he didn’t need to challenge the Raiders.

“I wanted to keep working my off-speed pitches and working ahead in the count so I didn’t have to throw too many fastballs over the plate,” Stepp said. “I wanted to keep the ball down and not let their hitters hurt us. Getting a lead early helped, and I wasn’t nervous and just wanted to stay in control and keep my composure.”

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