The Calhoun Yellow Jackets had a good day at the plate, on the mound and in the field, and all that added up to a big opening-day win on Tuesday.
The Jackets hosted Pepperell in their season opener and looked solid in three phases of the game to get the schedule off on the right foot with a 13-1 victory in five innings in non-region action. Calhoun coach Chip Henderson said he was pleased with how his team played, but this is just the beginning of a long season ahead.
“I tell the guys not to get too high with a win and not to get too low with a loss,” said Henderson, who is starting his 24th season at the help for the Jackets. “We’ve got a long season in front of us with 30 games or so scheduled so this is a good win to start things off and a step in the right direction. Hopefully we’ll use this as motivation to try to continue to be better every single day.”
Calhoun (1-0) got off to a quick start by pushing across two runs in the first inning and adding four more in the third to make it 6-0. After Pepperell scored a run in the top of the fourth, the Jackets dealt the final blow with a huge bottom half of the inning, stringing together five hits, three walks, a hit-by-pitch and seven runs to go ahead by 12.
Ben King then finished off the game with a scoreless fifth on the mound to force the mercy rule as he followed a solid outing by senior lefty ace Brett Potts, who earned the win with four strong innings.
“We wanted to hand the ball to our senior starter Pottsy and let him do his thing,” said Henderson. “He wasn’t as sharp today as he can be, but with the conditions like it was today and it being so early in the season, he battled through it and did what he’s done his whole career here, put us in a position to win. We were able to get some runs early to give him support, and we continued to add on. And our defense made plays behind him. We turned two double plays tonight, one of them that Brett started.”
King led the offensive efforts for Calhoun with a perfect 3-for-3 day, including a double, two RBIs and two runs scored. Aaron Hayes added two hits, with a double and two RBIs, and Potts was 2-for-3 with an RBI. Nate Bonner also had a double and drove in two runs, Carson Kemp drew two walks and drove in a run with a sac fly, John Andrew Cash walked twice and scored two runs, Matthew Williams had a hit and Ethan Crump stole a base and scored three runs.
Henderson said his team has put a big emphasis on producing runs any way they can this season, and Tuesday’s effort was a good start in that area.
“We’ve got to continue to get better hitting the ball to be as good a team as we want to be,” said Henderson. “We were able to square up some balls tonight and string together some hits. We pushed basrunners around when we needed to and were able to capitalize on some of the mistakes they made.”
Potts earned the win as he allowed only one run (unearned) on three hits while striking out three and walking two. King came in to work the fifth as he struck out one and walked one. It was the junior’s first appearance on the mound since his freshman season after not being able to pitch last year due to an elbow injury.
“Potts gave up a walk in the first and had a few baserunners during the game, but being the veteran lefty that he is, he was able to make quality pitches to get out of trouble,” said Henderson. “It was a good day for him and a good day for us. It was good to see Ben come in and get some work too. Brett probably could’ve gone another inning, but you have to be aware of the pitch-count rules, and that helps save them for more work down the road.”
Jake Chandler was one of the few offensive bright spots for the Dragons as he went 2-for-2 with an RBI. Trevor Thomas also had a hit and drew two walks, and Wesley Wade scored a run.
The Jackets are at home again on Saturday when they host Heritage for a doubleheaders starting at 11 a.m., weather permitting. They will visit Pepperell on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. for a non-region rematch.