Monday night’s FCA East-West Baseball Classic, pitting two squads of the area’s top players against one another, had all the elements of any successful all-star game: a home run derby, a raffle for tickets to a Braves game later in the summer and, of course, a duel between one lucky spectator on the mound and a Chick-fil-A cow mascot at the plate with $75 worth of Chick-fil-A merchandise on the line.
The spectator won.
And on an evening at host Chestatee High School where even the weather seemed to comply to the necessities of the occasion, everyone else in attendance were winners as well.
“Just the fellowship with all these kids coming together and playing good baseball, it was just a great night of baseball,” Chestatee and West team coach Jon Brewer said. “The FCA always does a fantastic job of putting on a great show here. I appreciate them for all they do.”
Brewer’s West squad — comprised of players representing West Hall, Chestatee, Gainesville, North Hall, White County, Jackson County and Commerce — ultimately won the game, an 8-0 decision over the East team (Flowery Branch, Johnson, East Hall, Riverside Military Academy, Jefferson, Lakeview Academy, Cherokee Bluff and Lanier Christian) that was close until the West’s seven-run sixth inning blew things open.
The contest was looser and less serious than a typical regular season bout, but with the best players from around the area coming to Brewer and the Chestatee team’s home turf, he admitted that neither he nor his players were ever lacking for competitive spirit.
“We’re competitors, and so we show up and we want to win baseball games,” he said. “All these kids do. If we’re going to be out here, we want to win.”
It was one of Chestatee’s own that shined the brightest.
Pitcher Will Cantrell got the start and the win for the West team, tossing a perfect three innings in which he struck out eight of the nine batters he faced. It was the last start the now graduated senior would make, and he was glad to be able to go out on a high note.
“I was kind of amped up,” he said. “Really wanted to go out with a bang, try to go as best as I could to help the team win.”
It was a battle of stellar pitching committees from the outset, as East team starter Zach Wagner of Flowery Branch allowed just one run in three innings of work off an RBI double to deep right field from Gainesville’s Cale Conley.
White County’s Sawyer Loggins for the West team and Lakeview Academy’s Campbell Melson for the East team relieved the starters in the fourth inning, pitching a couple of scoreless innings between them before things got out of hand in the sixth.
First an errant throw to first allowed Jake Welch of Commerce to extend the West’s lead. Then, Cantrell’s double to deep center brought in two more runs. Hits from Loggins, Jackson County’s Evan Giroux and White County’s Jared Johnson further separated the teams.
And while the final score was not close, Cantrell said both sides enjoyed the opportunity to come out and put a bow on the season in a carefree and enjoyable atmosphere.
“It’s actually a lot more fun this way,” he said. “We get to trash talk each other a little bit. There’s a little more freedom with all the guys around the county, the area really, where we had Jackson County and Jefferson and all them were represented in this game, just to have a loose, fun game for all the seniors to have to go out and have a good time. It was great.”