DALTON, Ga. - It hardly seemed like a first-place showdown, but no one in red and white was complaining.
Dalton's 17-2, four-inning beat-down of Region 7-AAAA rival Northwest Whitfield on Wednesday not only gave the Catamounts (10-4, 5-0) a two-game lead over the Bruins (10-6, 3-2) in the north sub-region, it also sent a message to the rest of the region that this is a team just starting to warm up.
"It's always a good feeling when you beat Northwest in anything," senior third baseman Carter Crutchfield said. "It was kind of a statement game more than anything because they were second and if they had beaten us they would have been first. We hit the ball tonight and the bigget thing from the start of the season is that we're getting timely hits. It showed on the scoreboard tonight."
After a scoreless first inning against Northwest starter Jordan Darnell, the Cats sent 27 batters to the plate in the next three innings. Among their 12 hits were five for extra bases, including a two-run homer from senior catcher Garren Palmer to cap a six-run second inning.
DALTON 17, NORTHWEST WHITFIELD 2
Northwest 001 1 - 2 4 4
Dalton 064 7 - 17 12 0
WP: Colton Kinnamon, 10 Ks. LP: Jordan Darnell. HR: Garren Palmer (D). 2B: Cody Jones, Diego Hernandez, Hunter Keefe (NW); Toombs Norman, Blake Raber, Stryker Brown, Murphy Martin (D); Other highlights: Will Estes 3-3, 4 RBIs, 2 runs; Mitch Townsend 2-3, 2 RBIs, 2 runs; Raber 2-3, RBI, 3 runs; Brown 3 RBIs; Norman 2 RBIs; Carter Crutchfield 3 BBs, 3 runs (D). Records: Dalton 10-4, 5-0 7-AAAA; Northwest 10-6, 3-2.
Palmer, like everyone else on the field Wednesday, knew there was more than a region game to be won.
"It's good to beat anybody pretty soundly, but since we live so close - there's always talking and stuff - this is a good win," Palmer said. "I know all their players, so it makes it a little extra special."
Four Northwest pitchers couldn't quiet the Cats' bats. Among the highlights were Will Estes' 3-for-3, four-RBI performance; two hits, two RBIs and two runs from Mitch Townsend; two hits, an RBI and three runs from Blake Raber, three RBIs from Stryker Brown and two more from Toombs Norman.
It was not an outcome Dalton coach Bobby Brotherton expected.
"Anytime Northwest and Dalton get together, you expect it's going to be a close ball game," he said. "We just got lucky tonight, got some base hits and got momentum going. It's like anything else, once you get something positive going, everybody wants to get to the plate."
And momentum is something clearly on Dalton's side. The Cats have won seven consecutive games and have out-scored their opponents by a combined 72 to 15.
"We got on them early, and we've been doing that for the past few games, and that's a plus," Brotherton said. "It feels good, but I don't kow if that's good for the next time we play them because they're going to go after us."
The recepient of all those runs was junior right-hander Colton Kinnamon, who limited the Bruins to four hits and struck out 10 in just four innings.