Northside splits double bill with Harris County
April 17, 2013
By Nathan Deen
FORT BENNING, Ga., (April 17, 2013) -- The Northside High School baseball team now owns the tie-breaker over the Harris County Tigers in a region race that is coming down to the wire between those two schools and Hardaway.
The Patriots split a doubleheader Friday with the Tigers at Northside, winning the first in a 9-1 rout. Harris County came back in Game 2 with a 3-0 win.
Both teams are 9-3 in Region 1-AAAAA, but the Patriots won two of their three games against the Tigers. Hardaway leads the region with a 10-2 record after sweeping Lee Co. in a doubleheader over the weekend, but the Hawks will play at Harris County in a doubleheader Friday. The Tigers won the first meeting of that series March 12, but if the Hawks come away with a sweep, the region could be decided in the final region game of the year April 23 when Hardaway plays at Northside.
Harris County's chances of winning the region would have been hurt significantly had it lost Game 2 of Friday's doubleheader.
"We needed a split for as poorly as we played in Game 1," Tigers head coach Steve Westmoreland said. "We didn't play very well defensively, we walked too many guys, but coming out with a split, we've done pretty good."
Things didn't look good in Game 1 as Harris County committed five errors and the Northside lineup got hot offensively, but senior pitcher Dillon Rodgers cooled things down for the Tigers in Game 2.
Rodgers, who played for Northside last year before transferring, shut out his former team, allowing seven hits and striking out six.
"I thought he handled it really well," Westmoreland said. "He's a mature kid and he showed that tonight. He didn't make more of it than it was, he just treated it as a baseball game.
"We played more like we're capable of playing in Game 2. (Rodgers) really let us settle in and let us play baseball. We didn't have to play with a lot of freebees on base -- walks or hit batters. When you got a guy out there throwing strikes, it makes it easier to play defense. You don't feel like you have to score seven to nine runs each game."
Northside had its chances though. The Patriots mounted three hits in the second inning, but failed to come away with any runs because Handley Boyd was thrown out going for home from second base after Chad Sheppard singled into center field.
The fifth inning was almost the same story. The Patriots had two doubles, but Bennett Wilson was picked off at second, Cam Hopkins was thrown out at the plate and Rodgers went back to the dugout unscathed.
"You've got to give (Harris County) a lot of credit," Northside head coach David Smart said. "They came back and played well. We got some hits, but they didn't do anything to help us. They did a good job of keeping the lead-off man off base and we had a couple of guys thrown out at the plate. In a close game like this, those things can come back and bite you."
Smart said he was proud of the performance of his former player.
"(Rodgers) did a great job of locating his fastball," he said. "He worked it on both sides of the plate. As a hitter, that makes you a little uncomfortable. A lot of guys will establish a pattern, but he didn't. I'm not glad he did it against us, but he's a good kid."
The Tigers scored all three of their runs in the top of the sixth inning. Northside freshman pitcher Drew Haywood had been working a shutout, but started showing signs of fatigue when he allowed the first two runners on base. He hit the next batter, but Smart decided to keep him in with the bases loaded. He walked the next two hitters and gave up a RBI-single to Tigers' first baseman Tyler Milner.
"I still thought he was in good shape," Smart said. "I trusted him to get us out of it. His stuff wasn't bad … he just got really tired. Sometimes those decisions work out, sometimes they don't.
"I thought he went out and threw very well for five innings. He gave us a great chance to be in the game. That's asking a lot of him in a game like this and in a big situation, but he went out and did a great job."
Northside's Chase Slocumb pitched another workmanlike performance in Game 1 -- a complete game that wasn't without its challenges.
Harris County had runners in scoring position in the first three innings, but Slocumb never forgot he was just one pitch away from getting out of a jam and seemed to get a double-play ball at the right time.
"He's a ground-ball pitcher … we know that's what we get with him," Smart said. "We turned some big double plays and he got out of some tough situations. He knows how to get himself out of trouble."
Boyd led Northside offensively in Game 1, going 2-for-3 with two RBI, including an off-the-wall double that drove in a run in the bottom of the second inning.
Westmoreland said his team has struggled in Game 1 in the last four doubleheaders the Tigers have played. That will have to change against Hardaway.
"We've got to throw strikes and play defense," he said. "When we do that, it's a winning formula for us. We're not a great offensive team, we just find ways to score runs. If we're not throwing strikes and not making defensive plays, we're not going to win the game."