There have been few chances over the years for Chip Henderson to get a real gauge of the mental makeup of his Calhoun High School baseball team. Tuesday was one of those opportunities, and the veteran coach was mostly pleased with what he saw.
The Yellow Jackets, coming off a rare region loss Monday, put up six first-inning runs at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe and cruised to an 8-1 win. Though the Jackets managed only five hits, six LFO errors and four first-inning walks helped the Calhoun cause.
Henderson, while pleased with the bounce-back win, was not happy to see an early-season trend continue of stranding baserunners.
"That was something we needed," he said of the big first inning. "Something that's plagued us is leaving runners on base, so it was nice to see in that first inning we got those guys in. Still, we left 12 runners on today, and in baseball that will at some point come back to bite you. We've got to capitalize on those opportunities."
Calhoun (3-4-1) sent 11 batters to the plate in the opening frame, scoring five of the runs after two outs. LFO pitcher Brandon Irwin was the victim of three errors, but he also walked in consecutive runs and left the game after giving up back-to-back RBI hits to Grant Quist and Corey Greeson.
Senior right-hander Austin Norrell was the beneficiary of that outburst. He had to work through his own first-inning issue after a Calhoun error led to LFO's lone run, but after escaping he retired the next 12 batters and finished with a three-hitter and nine strikeouts.
"My fastball was good, but I had a little trouble with my location today," the Walters State signee said. "I finally settled down and hit my spots. That was a big relief on my shoulders to have those six runs.
"Yesterday's loss hurt us, so it was nice to come out here and get some early runs. That was a lot of motivation for us today, and hopefully it will stick with us and we won't let it happen again."
LFO relievers Dusty Melford and Joshua McNabb kept the Warriors in the game with 5 2/3 innings of one-hit, shutout pitching. In fact, the Jackets managed only two hits in the final six innings, with Josh Schubert's two-run double in the seventh the only real damage.
Getting the bats going is a Calhoun priority, Henderson said.
"We're hurting ourselves right now," he said. "We're not making adjustments. We've only hit three home runs all year. The homers are going to be few and far between this year, so we need to square the ball up and put it in play.
"The balls just don't carry as well this year with the new [BBCOR] bats. The ball that gets up in the air just dies, but if you stay behind it and sqaure it up, it will fly. Hopefully, we'll get there."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...