RINGGOLD, Ga. - Monday was the sort of day Stuart Chester longs for, a day when he can throw another challenge in front of his talented baseball players and see how they respond.
Chester's Cartersville Purple Hurricanes, in a three-way battle for the Region 7-AAA championship, held serve Monday with an 11-0, five-inning win at Heritage.
Less than a week ago, the Generals took Ringgold - one of the three teams tied atop 7-AAA - to the limit in a 3-2 loss, so Chester knew his team had to be ready.
And so it was. Ben Venters and Luke Daniel homered and combined for six hits and seven RBIs, while pitchers Kendall Hawkins, Ben Dittmer and Sam Howard held Heritage to two hits. Cartersville (17-3, 16-1) also turned two inning-ending double plays.
"I'm always worried with Coach [Eric] Beagles and this program," Chester said of the Generals (12-8, 9-7). "They played Ringgold tight the other day. They play good defense and they have good arms. I was very concerned about today, but we came out early and got going and got a big road win."
Consecutive hits by Conner Justus, Daniel and Venters to open the game led to three runs, two coming in on a Zach Ross single. Venters' two-run homer to right-center highlighted a three-run second, and Daniel's three-run shot in the fifth put the game away.
Though the Generals came up short, Beagles was pleased sophomore right-hander Jared Porter was able to pitch all five innings. Heritage has three more key 7-AAA games this week and needs to win them all to hold onto the league's fourth, and final, playoff spot.
"He came in relief down there the first time we played them and pitched well, so he earned that opportunity to go against those guys today," Beagles said of Porter, who was not helped by three Heritage errors. "He didn't get the same results today as last time, but he'll be better down the road because of it.
"They're a good ball club, but what we've got to do is regroup. It kicks right back in tomorrow with Ridgeland and two other region games later this week. It's down to the last few, so they're all important. We have to come out with a little more conviction tomorrow."
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.