CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. — There may be more important games ahead, but Monday night's nonregion 2-0 win over Class AAAA power Heritage may prove to be a key moment in the immediate future of the Gordon Lee Trojans.
Mike Dunfee's team is 18-4 and already guaranteed a spot in next week's Region 6-A championship series, but the veteran coach wants a strong end to the regular season. Monday he watched three pitchers combine on a two-hitter against a powerful Heritage lineup.
Senior Austin Thompson, slowed by a shoulder ailment, pitched four innings of no-hit ball to get the win, and Jake Wright and Logan Streetman went the final three innings to complete the shutout against quad-A's No. 3-ranked team.
"Pitching and defense were the key today," Dunfee said. "Thompson really hadn't had a great outing this year, and it's partly our fault for rushing him a bit early, but today he wanted the ball and said he was ready to go. He went as far as he could go until his legs started to give out; then Jake came in and did a great job and Logan shut the door."
Thompson helped himself with a second-inning solo home run off Heritage starter Justin Morris, who went the distance for the Generals and allowed only three hits while striking out five. One of the other two hits was Hunter Hodson's sixth-inning solo homer.
Thompson, the team's No. 2 starter last year in its run to the Class A public runner-up finish, did not allow a hard-hit ball in four innings. However, he walked three Heritage batters in the third but ended the threat by getting cleanup hitter Cole Wilcox to pop out. Thompson allowed a walk in the fourth and was pulled in the fifth after throwing two balls to start the inning.
"Thompson took a hit in football in the shoulder and he's never felt right, so we shut him down," Dunfee said. "He started back up and we shut him down again. Mentally he felt fine, but he just couldn't find it physically on the mound. He's only got 10-12 innings, so he's got to get his timing down."
The game's key moment came in the sixth. Trailing by a run, the Generals (16-6) loaded the bases with one out against Wright with singles by Cole Wilcox and Josh Gibson and a walk by Brody Campbell. Junior right-hander Streetman came in and ended the threat by getting Blake Bryan to ground into a 1-2-3 double play.
"That bases-juiced and one-out situation, we work on that situation a lot defensively," Dunfee said. "We call it 'Chaos,' and the last drill we do is the 1-2-3 double play. It's good to see what you work on practice happen in a game."
Hodson's sixth-inning homer to dead left provided welcome insurance, and Streetman got a popup and two strikeouts to end the game.
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296; follow on Twitter @youngsports22.