Often times, the pitching is ahead of the hitting early on in a baseball season, and that was the case Monday for Apalachee.
Social Circle pitchers Chandler Ball and Corey Hays held the Wildcats in check for most of the night and led the Redskins to a 4-1 victory in a non-region contest and both teams’ regular season opener.
The Wildcats (0-1), who knocked off Putnam County 16-0 in a preseason scrimmage last week, weren’t able to duplicate that success against Social Circle, managing just two hits off Ball in four innings and two more off Hays over the final three innings.
“Those two guys had command and at this point in the season it’s tough to catch up to that fastball, especially when that secondary pitch is good, too,” Apalachee coach Allan Bailey said. “We made a couple mistakes in the field, but sometimes you’ve just got to tip your hat to them and move on. One thing I was proud of was we didn’t give up. We fought to the very last out, clawed and tried to get something going.
“We stayed positive and that’s going to pay off for us down the road.”
Social Circle plated three runs in the top of the second to jump out ahead early. Conner Bailey doubled home a pair of runners and then scored on an errant throw off a bunt by Bryce Nolan. The Redskins padded their lead in the third when Tate Peters launched a home run over the left field fence.
The Wildcats threatened to climb back in the game in the bottom of the fourth. After a pair of singles by Jacob Campbell and Dustin Sexton, Chase Chancey was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs. But Ball wiggled out of the jam, getting Ryan Crocker to fly out to shallow left and end the inning.
Apalachee finally scratched across a run in the sixth off Hays when Campbell doubled to right and later scored on an RBI groundout by Sexton, but that was as close as things got.
Ball and Hays combined to strike out seven Wildcats on the night.
“We hate to see that good of pitching this early,” Bailey said, “but at the same time it’s good to see because now we know what we’ve got to work on to get better.”
Bailey sent four Wildcats to the mound. Starter Jon Montgomery was chased in the second and relieved by Dawson Matherly, who was followed by Alex Cook and Jarrett Wallace.
Cook, a sophomore, had the most impressive night, striking out five Redskins over 2 2/3 innings and fanning the side in the fifth.
“I was proud of our guys for staying mentally in it,” Bailey said. “We didn’t have our best stuff on the mound tonight, but we were able to play really solid defense. All of that together, moving forward, is just going to help us in the long run.”
The Wildcats will resume action Thursday when they host Rockdale County. First pitch is set for 5:30 p.m.
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