RINGGOLD, Ga. - Early-season baseball is more about filling in the blanks than winning games, especially in the high school ranks where playing time is up for grabs.
With that in mind, Friday's 4-2 win for Heritage over Catoosa County rival Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe left each coach believing his team is taking shape. Played in brisk conditions with each team coming off a game the night before, the Generals (2-2) took advantage of four LFO errors to win.
Two unearned runs in the fifth broke a 2-2 tie for Heritage and made a winner of starting pitcher Dalton Belk, who went six strong innings and allowed three hits and one earned run. Jared Porter was both the hitting star with two hits and two RBIs and the game's closer, earning his second save in as many nights with a clean seventh inning.
"Dalton gave us strong innings after Blake Hamilton did the same thing last night, and Jared closing both games was huge for us," Heritage coach Eric Beagles said. "We talk a lot about responding when we have a bad inning: It's always a big part of the game, and it was tonight. We've had some early challenges, but the kids are stepping up and the team is taking shape."
LFO starter Cole Ellis was the tough-luck loser, allowing only one earned run in a complete game. Heritage went up 2-0 in the third on an RBI single by Colby Chattin, which was played into a two-base error, and Porter's two-out run-scoring hit.
The Warriors (2-4) put the first two on base in the fifth and scored both when Sam Eaves' grounder was misplayed.
The Generals went back ahead in the fifth when Austin Morris' potential inning-ending ground ball was booted, with Jacob Carter, who led off the inning with a single, moving to third. He scored on Porter's RBI hit to right field for what would turn out to be the winning run.
Though the Generals came out on top, LFO coach Johnny Burch was pleased with the effort after a 7-5 loss to Ridgeland on Thursday.
"We're coming off a tough loss last night where we didn't play very well, and tonight we feel like we played better, even though we never like to lose," said Burch, who Friday started the team's fourth different shortstop after senior Bradley Travis was lost with a hand injury. "We're still trying to build a staff because we have several freshmen who will pitch. We got a good effort from senior Cole Ellis tonight, but we just made a couple of more mistakes than they did."