RINGGOLD, Ga. - It may have been senior night at Heritage High School on Friday, but a freshman led the way in perhaps the baseball team's most important win of the season.
Alex Barbee pitched a complete-game four-hitter as the Generals defeated Dalton 6-2 in the finale of a three-game series that decided subregion 7B-AAAA's second and third seeds heading into next week's region playoff play-ins. Heritage (14-9, 10-5) will host a best-of-three set beginning with a doubleheader Wednesday against an A subregion opponent to be determined.
Dalton (14-9, 9-6) will travel for its play-in series to the No. 2 A seed.
"With us it all revolves around our pitching and Alex did what he's done all year, which is keep the ball down and let his defense work," Heritage coach Eric Beagles said. "He had one rough inning, but he was able to work through it and gave us some great innings. We had a nice game defensively as well, and the guys know they need to make the plays when he's on the mound."
Heritage, which lost game one of the series at home Tuesday, used a big third inning Friday to do in the Catamounts. A one-out walk, a single and Logan Haga's single plated the game's first run, and Andrew Morton's sacrifice fly made it 2-0. A walk and a hit batter loaded the bases before Tyler Meroney singled in two, and after a walk and a pitching change, Damian Goins made it 6-0 with a two-run single.
Barbee allowed all four Dalton hits in the fifth inning, including back-to-back doubles to lead off by Jase Chastain and Brock Nelson to get the Cats on the board. Caleb Hill and Tucker Sumner followed with singles, but after Nelson scored and Hill went to third, the over-aggressive Sumner was cut down at second on a nice relay.
Barbee then got a big second out when Maddux Houghton popped up, and he ended the threat by striking out Charlie Morton. The poised ninth-grader then retired Dalton's final six batters.
"It was senior night and all and I was just trying to stay focused, and those guys really kept me up," Barbee said. "I couldn't have done it without my defense today. [Left fielder] Bret Badacour was on point all game, and Damian Goins made some nice plays in center."
Heritage, if it survives the play-in series, would go in as the region's No. 3 seed and avoid a first-round trip to Columbus.
"It's a huge difference between going into the playoffs as a three-seed instead of a four-seed," he said.
"I can't say enough good about how the guys responded after losing that first game. We didn't play well in that first game, and to bounce back and play so well these last two was crucial."
Leadoff man Noah Hill scored two runs, including the game's final run on a wild pitch in the seventh, and had two of Heritage's six hits.
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.