CALHOUN, Ga. - No one would have blamed Chip Henderson if, more than once Tuesday, the Calhoun High School baseball coach believed his team was having a little April Fool's Day tomfoolery with him.
After all, in their most important game to date against Region 7-AA co-leader Pepperell, Henderson's Yellow Jackets trailed by five runs heading into the home half of the third inning - the result of two errors, a couple of other plays that could have been made and some shaky pitching. Calhoun, though, scored six times in the third and twice in the fourth to take sole possession of first place with a 9-6 win.
"It's not how we wanted to start, but like the old cliché goes, it's not how you start, it's how you finish," Henderson said after the Jackets improved to 12-1, 6-1 in league play. "We got down, but even at 6-1 we didn't panic, and with some of the sticks in our lineup we knew we can string some hits together, and we did."
After the Dragons (7-8, 5-2) scored three unearned runs in the first and three more on four hits - Jacob Smith's two-run single the big one - in the third, the Jackets' bats came to life. Calhoun sent 12 batters to the plate and benefited from some suddenly shaky defense from the visitors to turn the game around.
Two errors and an infield hit scored one run, and after an out, Weston McArthur plated two with a single before Jon Register, Spencer Cross and Matt McHan had consecutive RBI hits. Jonathan Harper brought home the go-ahead run with a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch. The Jackets loaded the bases in the fourth and got runs on Cross's sacrifice fly and Logan Walraven's single.
The outburst made a winner of Calhoun starting pitcher McHan, who weathered the early errors and one bad inning to improve to 2-0. The junior left-hander retired the final 13 batters of the game.
"I can't say enough about Matt McHan," Henderson said. "He could have easily hung his head or pointed fingers, but instead he battled and was lights out at the end. What a performance, to finish up that way, especially the way it started. He needed a good confidence builder, and he got it tonight."
McHan, fighting for a top rotation spot on a deep Calhoun staff, gave credit to his teammates for helping him hold it together.
"My teammates rooting me on kept me in the game," he said. "That was the big thing: They didn't get down on me. We've been struggling all year in that we seem to hit in spurts, so tonight it was nice to see us do it the whole game."
Johnson, who had to leave the game after being hit in the head with a pitch, was one of six Calhoun batters with two hits, joining Harper, McArthur, Register, Cross and Walraven.
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296.