Calhoun used solid hitting, pitching and defense Friday night to “Register” a 4-2 high school baseball win over Boyd-Buchanan at 6,362-seat AT&T Field where the Class AA Chattanooga Lookouts normally ply their trade.
Both teams knew their surroundings and save two Yellow Jackets errors in the first inning played flawless baseball.
“It’s a different kind of game, for sure,” Bucs coach Josh Rider said. “But you have to keep it in perspective. We came over here to compete and win a game, but we also wanted to enjoy the experience as well. You don’t get to play often in a facility like this.”
It was the second game in a professional stadium for the Yellow Jackets (15-3), who played at State Mutual Stadium, home of the Class A Rome Braves, earlier this season.
“It’s a treat for players and coaches,” Calhoun coach Chip Henderson said. “To play in Chattanooga where the Lookouts play is pretty sweet. You’re still looking at 90-foot bases, 60-foot-6 inches (to the mound), but the fences are a little deeper and the outfield is more spacious.”
Three players stood out for Calhoun, which has a rich baseball tradition that includes state championships in 1974, 2000, 2005 and 2010 and a runner-up finish in 2007.
Right-handed pitcher Jon Register fired a complete game four-hitter and after giving up two runs in the first three innings, choked off the Buccaneers’ bats to win his third game without a loss. He struck out eight and walked one – that coming in the seventh inning.
The outfield fences – 330 feet to left field, 400 in center and 325 to right – didn’t bother first baseman Brett Peek, who went 3-for-4, including a two-run homer to continue his torrid hitting over a two-week span.
Sophomore second baseman Jarrett Carden, making only his second varsity start, ripped a 2-2 pitch from Bucs reliever Nathan Murrell up the middle to drive in two runs for a 4-2 lead that stood up the rest of the way.
Aside from Peek’s three hits, third baseman Spencer Cross had two hits, including a second-inning triple, and shortstop Avery Johnson added two singles in four at-bats.
“Peek is the hottest hitter we’ve got right now,” Henderson said. “He’s wearing the ball out, hitting to all fields and hitting with authority.”
Boyd-Buchanan (13-9) had four players – Jim Cardwell, Cade Evans, Colby Morgan and E.J. Matthews – with one hit each.
Murrell, Colby Morgan and E.J. Matthews also had singles off Register, but only Morgan managed to get past first base.
Rider used five pitchers – that was his plan all along – with Skyler Anderson starting and going two innings. Murrell worked two innings while John Sewell, Josh Antwine and Cardwell each pitched one inning.
“I absolutely wanted to use several pitchers tonight,” Rider said. “We go back into district play next week, so we wanted to give a few guys a chance to throw.”
The Bucs, who rallied with a four-run seventh inning to beat Meigs County on Thursday, scored quickly against Register.
With one out in the first, Register hit Cade Evans. Register tried to pick Evans off at first, but his throw sailed into foul territory down the right-field line and Evans raced to third. The throw from right field to third was wide of the mark and Evans went home with the game’s first run.
Calhoun’s John Alan Kendrick hit Murrell’s first pitch into right-center field for a single to start Calhoun’s third inning. He went to second on a groundout and jogged home on Peek’s towering homer.
“That’s my first one this season,” Peek said. “I thought it was foul off the bat, but I’m glad it got out of there fair.”
Henderson, standing in the third-base coaching box, had a good view of Peek’s bomb.
“He got a pitch up and in and got it up,” He said. “I could tell by the flight of the ball it was going over the left fielder’s head. It was just a matter of whether it was going to stay fair or go foul.”
Peek’s homer wiped out Boyd-Buchanan’s 1-0 lead, triggered in the first inning when Cade Evans was hit by a pitch. Register’s attempted pickoff throw to first sailed into right field foul territory and Evans scampered to third.
And when the outfield throw in was wide of Cross at third, Evans raced home with the game’s first run.
In the Bucs’ half of the third, Cardwell singled to right-center and was sacrificed to second by Evans’ bunt. Cardwell moved to third on a groundout and scored when Register uncorked a wild pitch.
Boyd-Buchanan’s offense dried up after that.
Including Evans’ sacrifice bunt, Register retired 10 straight, the last two by strikeouts, before Murrell singled to left with one out in the sixth. Murrell didn’t get past first, however.
“We put guys on in the first couple innings,” Rider said, “but we went dry for a while and didn’t get another hit until the sixth. It was tough to manufacture anything because we weren’t getting many base runners.”
Register issued his only walk to Anderson starting the seventh inning, but pinch-hitter Brandon Willingham struck out, Antwine popped out to third and Sewell struck out to end the game.
“They have a great ballclub,” Rider said of Calhoun. “Their pitcher threw a great game and kept us off balance with the curveball.”
Henderson said that when Register’s curve is working, opposing teams are in trouble.
“Jon is able to get ahead in the count with the fastball and finish off some batters with his breaking ball,” Henderson said. “When he’s on with that thing – and he landed some tonight – it presents some problems.”
Register threw 104 pitches and 67 were strikes. Seven of his strikeouts came in the final four innings when Register had complete control of the knee-buckling curveball.
He also got in on the Yellow Jackets’ solid defensive play.
In the Bucs’ fourth, Anderson hit a high chopper back to the mound. The ball almost got over Register, but he grabbed it with his bare hand while stumbling over the back of the mound and threw to first to nail Anderson.
Register will probably remember his strong effort at AT&T Field for years to come.
“It’s a totally different atmosphere,” he said. “Knowing some of the pro players that have played here, it’s a privilege for us to play in this ballpark. We put in a lot of work, so I think we deserve it. If we work had maybe some of us will be playing on a field like this someday.”
Calhoun, Ga. 002 200 0 – 4 10 2
Boyd-Buchanan 101 000 0 – 2 4 0
Register and McArthur; Anderson, Murrell (3), Sewell (5), Antwine (6), Cardwell (7) and Payne.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)