TUNNEL HILL, Ga. -- In case anyone missed the Northwest Whitfield baseball program the past few years, the Bruins noisily announced their presence Tuesday.
Back in Region 7-AAAA after four years playing against mostly Atlanta-area schools, Northwest opened region play Tuesday with a five-inning 12-0 win over Ridgeland. Ace pitcher Seth Pierce, for one, was excited about the new start, as evidenced by his 11 strikeouts in the shortened complete game.
"It's a nice way to come back to the region," said the sophomore left-hander, who allowed three early hits before finding his groove. "I really focused on hitting my spots instead of tossing it. I wanted to use all my pitches today and not just try to throw it by them. We wanted to start off with the fastball and work in and out, then work in the curveball to keep them off balance. Today it worked."
The first inning would tell the story. The Panthers (7-2) reached Pierce for back-to-back two-out hits from Daniel Johnson and Trey Hill, but Hill was thrown out trying for second to end the threat. In the bottom half the Panthers had two chances to turn double plays but managed just one out each time. That cost them.
Edwin Hernandez hit a two-run homer to right-center, and A.J. Orozco, Pierce and Wade Terrell followed with consecutive singles to plate two more. And then the Bruins (6-3) sent 11 batters to the plate in scoring five more runs in the second. Ridgeland starter Tyler Hisey walked three in the inning and Orozco, Kyle Brock and Brandon Smith had RBI singles.
Pierce, meanwhile, allowed a leadoff single to Gannon Hampton in the second, then struck out the next nine Ridgeland batters.
"That was a good way to get it started," Northwest coach Todd Middleton said. "It was huge to get out of that first inning. Seth left a couple of pitches up that first inning, but he did a good job of coming back. He's gets that adrenaline going and sometimes he has to calm down before he can start pitching."
Ridgeland coach Scott Harden, whose team came in ranked seventh in Class AAAA, was just glad his team gets two more shots at the Bruins this week. Region coaches elected to play three-game series this year to decided regular-season champions in each subregion.
"That was a different team than I've seen all year," Harden said. "Hisey has been solid all year long and tonight we come out and walk, what, eight batters? Todd's teams always play well, and when you give them that much they're going to take advantage of you. Hopefully we can show up Thursday with a better effort."
Smith led the Northwest 12-hit attack with three hits. Hernandez, Diego Peralta and Orozco had two hits each.
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.