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High school baseball: Chestatee falls behind early in region loss to Walnut Grove
Chestatee's Jake Hitchcock (1) throws against Walnut Grove on March 10, 2023 in Gainesville. Photo by Bill Murphy

It didn’t take long into its Region 8-4A crossover baseball game with Walnut Grove to get a sense that it just wasn’t going to be Chestatee’s night.

The visiting Warriors scored at least a run in all but one inning, while the War Eagles couldn’t make the most of their opportunities when they put baserunners on in all but one inning.

 The result was a 7-2 Walnut Grove victory Friday at the Lynn Cottrell Complex.

“We got some hits. We got runners in scoring positions. We just couldn’t push them across,” Chestatee coach Kevin McConnell said. “So, we’ve got to get better in that regard. We’re young. We’re building. We’re going to good going forward. … So, we’ve just got to keep getting better.”

From the very start, there were ominous signs for Chestatee (7-6, 3-2) thanks to the ability of Walnut Grove (9-3, 3-2) hitters to put the ball in play, and some bad fortune due to conditions at the normally-friendly confines of the Lynn Cottrell Complex.

Braxton Brooks led up with a high fly to right-center field that became trouble for War Eagles outfielders due to a stiff breeze blowing out that way, plus the setting sun still shining bright in the sky to make anything hit in the air an adventure.

The ball eventually found its way to the wall and wound up as a triple for Brooks, who came home a batter later on Kole Houston’s RBI ground out to second for a quick 1-0 Warriors lead.

After Alec Clayton drew a walk, Hewett Jones sent an almost identical fly ball to right-center that Brooks hit, with the exact same result, only Jones’ triple drove in a run that pushed the Walnut Grove lead to 2-0.

Left-handed starter Jake Hitchcock avoided any further damage in the inning, but those two runs put Chestatee in an early hole.

“It’s hard to play here early in the year because that sun sets right behind our press box,” McConnell said. “So second base, short, center field, they all kind of struggle with the sun.

“Usually, we do a pretty good job, kind of a home-field advantage with the sun, but (Friday) night, I think the wind was a little bit of a factor. It was kind of breezy out there, and the ball just kind of kept carrying on us. And that kid (Brooks) who hit that (first triple) is a good player. He hit that ball hard, and we just couldn’t get to it.”

Brooks was also effective on the mound, scattering five hits over five shutout innings with seven strikeouts, though Chestatee did have scoring opportunities, only to strand eight base runners, seven of which came in scoring position.

Meanwhile, Walnut Grove was much more opportunistic, posting single add-on runs in the second, third, fourth, fifth and seventh innings.

The third-inning run came via a solo home run by Jones, while Hodges also drove in a run with an RBI double in the fifth and Ty Trinkle chipped in an RBI single in the top of the seventh to build the lead to 7-0.

The War Eagles finally were able to string enough hits together in the bottom of the seventh, with Josh Bull finally breaking the shutout with a two-out RBI single, following by another RBI single from Dylan Thompson to cut the lead to 7-2.

But it wasn’t enough, as Skylar English was able to close out the game for Walnut Grove.

Chestatee did finish with eight hits on the night, including a 3-for-4 night with an RBI from Thompson, plus 2-for-3 night with a triple for Ethan Andrews.

Up next, Chestatee opens subregion play Monday with the first of three games next week against East Hall. 

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