CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. — The goal has never changed for Mike Dunfee and Gordon Lee, though this baseball season brings a different level of challenge.
The veteran coach, who led the Trojans to consecutive GHSA Class A public championships in 2018 and 2019 and a runner-up finish in 2021, has always preached patience, preferring to peak at playoff time instead of aiming for marquee early wins.
However, with a move up two classes to AAA this year, and with a talented, veteran team, Dunfee wanted to push his players as much as possible in the pre-region slate this season. So far the news is positive, including Thursday's 5-2 win over visiting Silverdale Baptist Academy.
Gordon Lee (7-4) used a solid outing from senior pitcher Blake Rodgers and seven hits, four runs and four RBIs from his top three hitters — all seniors — to secure the win in the team's final tuneup before Region 6-AAA play begins.
"We have a lot of young guys playing and some guys who played a lot last year," Dunfee said. "Anytime you have those veterans, the beginning of the year isn't going to get you down too much. This older group isn't going to panic. Get into your system and get hot, that's what we've always preached.
"Silverdale (1-1) is a great team, and Lance (Rorex) does a great job with them. We have an advantage in that we've played 10 games coming in and they had played one, but they are going to be a handful for anyone this year."
Rodgers, who missed most of last season with a hamstring injury, allowed three hits and one earned run while striking out six batters in five innings to earn the win. Jackson Scalia earned the save by going the final two innings and allowing one hit and no runs while striking out two.
Seniors Rodgers, Kade Cowan and Nate Dunfee — the coach's son — combined to go 7-for-11 at the top of the potent lineup.
"They've been playing good for a while now," said Coach Dunfee, who admitted he didn't want to sing too many praises this early in the season. "They can be scrappy. It's kind of like, there's something special about a senior, and these guys love each other and they are family. I can't tell you how many weekends they've all spent together over the years.
"It's just a special group."
The game was 1-1 in the bottom of the third when Nate Dunfee reached base after getting hit by a pitch, Cowan singled and Rodgers delivered his second RBI single of the game before Cowan scored on a wild pitch.
Silverdale made it a one-run game in the fourth when Brody Lamb scored on an error, but the Trojans added two runs in the sixth on a two-out error, a single by Dunfee and Cowan's two-run double.
"I'm happy where we are right now," Coach Dunfee said. "We had some injuries and had to play some kids earlier than we might have wanted.
"At the beginning of the year, we tell them we are collecting data over the first 10 or so games. We're trying to work out some kinks and finding some pieces, and we've done that. They are playing with a little more confidence, and it's fun to see it.
"It's fun to see them grow up and become young men. It's bigger than baseball. Just enjoy it day by day, man, because you won't ever get it back."
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org.