Connor Bennett did everything on the mound Friday that would be expected from a pitcher who is signed with a major Division-I program and also on the radar of the pro scouts.
The senior right-hander threw a fast ball regularly in the 90s and a devastating off speed pitch, striking out 13 batters in a 6-0 win against North Hall at Jody Davis Field.
Bennett only allowed six singles, and settled down after allowing a pair of Trojans to reach base in both the first and second inning. By the time Bennett, who is signed with West Virginia, got late in the game for the third-ranked Wolves (16-2, 8-0 Region 8-AAAA), his change of speed had North Hall totally off-kilter and guessing what he might throw next.
On Wednesday, Buford earned the 3-2 win against the Trojans (13-7, 6-4) behind Bennett’s one-inning of scoreless relief in the eighth. During that brief outing, Bennett said he was clocked by pro scouts in attendance at 96 miles per hour.
However, he’s just as powerful when he gets the start and can settle into a rhythm, even though it was only his third start of the season. Bennett got around attempts by North Hall to get some runs on the board in the first with Corbin Lewallen’s two-out hit, and hits from Drew Coker and Matthew Cox with a pair of outs in the second.
“Connor is the kind of pitcher the more he throws, the better he gets,” said Buford coach Tony Wolfe. “With his breaking pitch and change of speed, he’s very tough to hit.”
In the fifth inning, Bennett struck out the side. His only walk was earned by North Hall senior left fielder Lincoln Hewett in the third inning.
“He (Bennett) was dominant,” North Hall coach Trent Mongero said. “He’s everything think you’d expect from a major D-I prospect and a guy that is being looked at by the pros.
“It’s tough to see the ball when it’s coming out of his hand with his velocity and his off-speed stuff is nasty.”
Bennett was happy with the run support he got. Buford put a three-spot on the board in the first and sixth innings to allow Bennett plenty of breathing room.
Senior catcher Joey Bart, a Georgia Tech signee, laced a two-run double in the first inning, followed by a run-scoring hit by Buford’s Caleb Moore.
In the sixth inning, the Wolves scored on RBI singles by Brandon Marsh, who finished with three singles in four plate appearances, and Austin Wilhite’s hit to score another run.
Bart drove in the final run of the inning with a sacrifice fly to center field. Dillon Lancaster’s bunt in front of the plate, intended as a sacrifice to move the runners into scoring position, resulted in a hit to load the bags for the pair of singles to follow.
“The way our batters are hitting the ball, it makes it a lot easier on me as a pitcher,” said Bennett. “I can just go out there, relax and throw the ball.”
For North Hall, Coker finished with a single in all three plate appearances. Cox had two hits.
Buford continues its toughest stretch of the region schedule with its next series starting against Madison County (13-6, 6-3) at 5:55 p.m. Monday in Buford, then Game 2 on Wednesday in Danielsville.
“Madison County is tough,” said Wolfe. “They’ve played a lot of low-scoring games this season. You have to respect the team they have.”
On Monday, North Hall visits Johnson in Oakwood.