Even though it was the home opener and the first game of the annual Scenic City Classic, Thursday was just another day for most of the McCallie baseball family.
It was much more than that for Blue Tornado coach Greg Payne and his son Tyler, who plays shortstop and pitches.
The Paynes and McCallie were facing Gordon Lee, a school where Greg once coached, and Trojans players with whom Tyler had been classmates.
After a precarious first inning, Tyler settled in and pitched no-hit ball over the next three innings. Chris Burnett, his battery mate, saved the day with a two-run sixth-inning home run to left-center, allowing McCallie to collect a 5-4 victory and move to 2-0 in this first week of the season.
"It's a tough thing to do, pitching against your former classmates in a game he knew I really wanted to win," Coach Payne said. "I'm proud of him because he wanted to pitch the game."
Neither father nor son was so certain of their choices at the outset.
The visiting Trojans parlayed a hit batsmen and three singles into three first-inning runs, all earned.
"It was a matter of getting settled in," said Tyler, who was pitching his first game since this tournament last year. "Once I got over the nerves, I settled in and threw OK."
The junior surrendered a second-inning leadoff walk but retired the next 10 batters.
He tired in the fifth after striking out the leadoff batter. He gave up a walk and then hit a batter and was lifted in favor of Cole Songer, who came in and quelled the rally.
The eventual winner, Songer turned in a 1-2-3 ixth and gave up a single run in the top of the seventh before Tyler Payne, having moved to short, fielded a grounder and flipped to second with the bases loaded for the final out.
Songer was pitching under pressure with the game tied at 3 until Burnett got his second hit of the day, a towering home run with teammate John Hennen about.
"It was a fastball. He had two strikes on me and I always look fastball first with two strikes," Burnett said.
The two-out shot was a no-doubt blast and easily carried over the deep left-center wall.
"It feels great," he said of the game-winning blast. "There's no feeling like it."
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...