RINGGOLD, Ga. - It was a sign of respect Clate Schmidt will show few high school baseball teams this year. The Allatoona star senior pitcher refused to give in to any Ringgold batters in the seventh inning Friday night, and his caution was rewarded with a crucial 5-3 win.
Allatoona (15-6, 10-4) maintains a two-game lead over LaFayette for the fourth and final playoff berth in Region 7-AAA and completed a season sweep of the region-leading Tigers (15-4, 12-2).
Schmidt, like injured Ringgold pitcher Matthew Crownover, is headed to Clemson next season, and he pitched like a seasoned vet Friday when the Tigers were trying to rally. Down 5-1 entering the seventh, Ringgold put the first two runners on before Schmidt battled back to get the next two outs with one run scoring. However, he walked No. 9 hitter Adam Baldwin and leadoff man Slade Dale to load the bases.
Corey Kafka then worked the count full before earning the RBI walk on a 3-2 curveball to move the tying runs into scoring position. Schmidt, though, escaped further trouble by getting Allan Mochabee to ground out on his first pitch.
"They're a good ballclub - one of the top teams in the state - and we knew they would battle us to the end," Allatoona coach Keith Hansen said. "Clate sort of lost his curveball and his cutter in the seventh. You're not going to beat Ringgold throwing fastballs, especially on this field. I told him, 'We're not going to give in, even if you walk one or two.' He couldn't afford to groove one to Kafka, who can really hurt you. He came back and threw good pitches, and that's all you can ask for."
The visitors scored three first-inning runs against Ringgold's Kafka on Nick Hall's RBI double, a wild pitch and T.J. Watson's groundout. The Tigers got one run back in the fourth on Austin Parrish's sacrifice fly, but Allatoona's Michael Royal answered in the fifth with a two-out, two-run homer to dead left.
"Mikey is one of our all-time home run leaders, and he got a good pitch to hit and turned on it," Hanson said. "That was the key to the game, even though we got the three first-inning runs. We had to add on because Kafka did a great job after that first inning."
Ringgold coach Brent Tucker, though disappointed with the loss, was pleased his team never quit despite facing one of the top pitchers in the country.
"We didn't have a lot of fire tonight, for whatever reason," he said. "But you have to give credit to Schmidt. He kept the ball in on us most of the night and kept us off balance. Still, we had our shot, with our No. 3 hitter at the plate and the bases loaded. Allan put a good swing on it, but he just missed it a little bit.
"The best thing about this loss is we're still in first place. We've definitely got our work cut out for us, but we're in the grind right now and we've got to find the energy and motivation."