Despite a steady starting pitching outing and timely production from up and down the lineup, the Sonoraville Phoenix were narrowly defeated 6-4 in a highly competitive, back-and-forth home-opener against the Dalton Catamounts on Tuesday.

The Phoenix (1-2) offense was able to chip away at Dalton (5-0) pitcher Harrison Norman in the first couple of frames, as leadoff hitter Chase Kirby reached base on a single, stole second base and eventually scored on a passed ball to put the team on the board. Kirby finished the contest 2-for-3 at the plate with a pair of swiped bags.

“We call Kirby our party-starter, and if he isn’t hitting well the team isn’t hitting well,” Sonoraville head coach Daniel McArthur said.

“He gets us going, and getting him into a groove is important for us. I was proud of the night he had, and hope it’s a sign of things to come.”

As the first continued, Norman proceeded to walk Matthew Vincent and Tyler Lyles and permitted a base knock from Gage Soulios to load the bases for Storm Carnes, who promptly delivered for the Phoenix by slicing an RBI-single to the right side that pushed the tally to 2-0.

Coupling with Sonoraville’s quick start at the plate, starting pitcher Avery Hopper took the mound and struck out the first four Catamounts he faced. However, the tenacious Dalton lineup was able to knot up the score 2-2 in the top of the second with a pair of doubles from Rhett Hammontree and Jack Ridley and an RBI-single from Kaleb Valdez.

A common theme throughout the game, the Phoenix were able to answer back in the bottom portion of the inning when Beau Bullard and Kirby singled, Wyatt Castoe was hit by a pitch and Vincent was additionally clipped by a pitch to score Bullard and move the score to 3-2.

Unfortunately for Sonoraville, the Catamounts mounted another comeback in the fourth when Valdez made another impactful trip to the plate by lacing a two-RBI single to snag a 4-3 lead.

Although he did allow four runs to cross before being subbed for relief pitcher Collin Bridges in the fifth, Hopper racked up 10 strikeouts over four frames while impressively maneuvering out of a handful jams to keep the Phoenix in the game.

Bridges punched out three batters over three innings of work.

“We will need these types of performances from Hopper all season,” McArthur said.

“He started to labor a bit there towards the middle of the game, but it is still early in the season so that is to be expected. But I was very pleased with his performance overall.”

Sonoraville proved to have one more rally in them in the fifth when Dalton called upon Harrison Hughes to relieve Norman. Soulios, the first batter he faced, swiftly greeted him by squaring up a pitch and depositing it over right-center field for a solo home run to once again even the score at 4-4.

“Gage was due, and hopefully that will get him going for the rest of the season,” McArthur said. “He has a ton of pop, so when he’s able to run into one it always has a chance.”

After a quiet sixth inning for both squads, the momentum took a final swing in the Catamounts direction in the top of the seventh. After a misplayed ball in the outfield placed Norman on base, JP Tighe took advantage with a towering, clutch two-run homer of his own. Hughes was then able to shut the Phoenix out in the bottom of the seventh to secure the win.

“Overall, we gave ourselves a chance, but we made a few mental errors that they were able to capitalize on,” McArthur said. “We left too many runners on base, but those are the type of things we will get better at. That was the difference in the game.”

Sonoraville is scheduled to take on Woodland on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in a non-region contest, depending on the weather.

They will be back at home on Tuesday to host Woodland at 4:30 p.m.