Calhoun celebrated their seniors on Tuesday prior to their Region 7-AAAAA contest against Woodland, and there was plenty of celebrating at the end of the game as well with multiple seniors playing a huge role in making it happen.
The Jackets had seniors step up at the plate, on the mound and on the basepaths to help earn a dramatic 1-0 victory in 11 innings on their home field over Woodland.
After stellar pitching and defense by both teams held the opposing offenses off the scoreboard for 10 and a half innings, the Jackets (16-6, 9-4 in 7-AAAAA) delivered a clutch rally in the bottom of the 11th that started with a one-out double by senior Barrett Saunders and ended with a two-out, walk-off single by his twin brother and fellow senior Braden Saunders which brought home another senior Dante Morton for the game-winning run.
The thrilling ending wouldn’t have been possible, however, without the major contributions on the mound by another pair of seniors, Hagan Banks and Bryse Ingle, who combined to shut out Woodland (8-18, 4-9 in 7-AAAAA) over 11 innings while allowing just three hits to the Wildcats’ offense.
Calhoun head coach Chip Henderson said the way the game played out with so many of his seniors playing a huge role in a memorable win could not have been more fitting for Senior Day.
“This is such a great group of kids, and they will remember this one for sure,” said Henderson. “This could possibly be their last game on this field and to go out like this is special. It was a tough game and we didn’t get a whole lot of breaks today, but they willed themselves to a victory. I’m excited for them to get a win like this on Senior Day.”
Banks started on the bump for Calhoun and was close to unhittable as he threw nine innings of shutout ball, giving up just three hits while striking out an incredible 17 Wildcat batters. The Alabama commit got the tough-luck no decision, but Ingle came in and picked up right where Banks left off, tossing two innings of scoreless, hitless relief and striking out five of his own to earn the win.
“You look at those two seniors on the mound for us today,” said Henderson. “We knew our pitching was going to do what they had to do to hold (Woodland) off. It was just going to come down to us capitalizing on one of our chances at the plate. We didn’t hit the ball very well tonight, but we fought and hung in there and gave ourselves a chance. The opportunities were few and far between offensively for us, but that one in the 11th was our biggest one, and we were able to get the big hit when we needed it.”
Calhoun’s offense was kept off balance by a solid combined performance by a pair of Woodland pitchers as well. Wildcats’ starter Carter Heath went six innings and didn’t allow a run while giving up just three hits and striking out six. Peyton Posey came on in relief and went 4 2-3 innings as he suffered the tough-luck loss, giving up one unearned run on two hits while striking out one.
Along with the Saunders’ brothers big hits in the 11th, the Calhoun offense also got hits in the win from Morton, Kris Sutton and Christopher Lewis. Jackets’ senior Parker Lester also reached base twice on walks.
The lone hits for Woodland came from Posey, Chase Carson and Drew Billings. The Wildcats’ best scoring chance came in the ninth when they advanced a runner to third, but Banks got out of the inning undamaged with a huge strikeout to end the threat.
Henderson said Tuesday’s win was another positive step his team could take as they wind down the regular season and get ready for the playoffs.
“It’s another region game and another opportunity to go out and play quality baseball,” said Henderson. “Each chance we get to take the field is a chance to get better. We need to figure out how to cash in some more of our opportunities at the plate when we get them, but credit to Woodland today…they are a scrappy bunch and they made some big plays defensively today to make it hard on us. They probably left here thinking they let one get away so they will be ready to go when we head down there on Friday to finish the series.”
Calhoun was on the road on Wednesday to take on Notre Dame (Tenn.) in Chattanooga, winning 7-1, improving to 17-6 on the season. They will complete their region series with Woodland on the road on Friday with a doubleheader starting at 5 p.m. Those results were not in by print deadline.
The Jackets, who are likely to get the No. 3 seed from the region going into the Class AAAAA State Tournament, could possibly add one or two non-region games next week according to Henderson before the postseason begins the following week.