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Chestatee tops East Hall behind 5-run 8th inning
Pitcher Zach Sweet pitches a complete game
East Hall’s Hunter Buffington tags out Chestatee High’s John Michael Farina as he slides off the bag at second base on a steal attempt during the second inning of their game Thursday evening at East Hall Park. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

One of the most difficult things to do in any sport is to fight back after a late-game momentum swing.

That was the situation the Chestatee baseball team found itself in when it allowed three East Hall runs to cross the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning, tying the game and forcing extra innings.

But when it mattered most, the War Eagles’ bats came alive as they hadn’t all season. They scored five runs in the extra frame en route to an 11-7 win over the Vikings on Thursday at East Hall Park.

“It was a tough ballgame,” Chestatee coach Wes Gentry said. “As a coach, you always have a lump in your throat when the other guys have the last at-bat. But this was a big win. I’m proud of them.”

After giving up the lead in the final half-inning, Chestatee (1-2) sent 10 men to the plate in the top of the eighth, scoring five.

With one out, Dillon Brewster got the action started with a sharp single. A walk to the next batter, Jordan London, put runners at first and second with one out. When shortstop Lucas Bennett’s long fly ball was caught for the second out with no movement from the runners, it looked as if the pressure would be back on the War Eagle defense.

But a bloop infield single from Michael Pinson was enough to get the offense rolling. That single drove in the first run of the inning, followed by an RBI double from pitcher Zach Sweet, a walk and then a double from Joey Scheman with the bases loaded.

Scheman’s big hit drove in three and gave Chestatee a comfortable five-run lead. He finished 1 for 3 with three RBIs on the night.

Pinson finished 3 for 5 with two RBIs, and Bennett was 2 for 5 with two RBIs.

“We really needed this,” Gentry said. “We had a combined seven hits in our first two games, so this was big.

“We’ve got a young team, and we needed that shot in the arm to help them stay competitive.”

East Hall scored one on its final opportunity. Center fielder Spencer Skelton singled on a bunt, moved to third on a double by Hunter Buffington and scored on a ground ball from Garrett Bishop. But the insurance runs that the War Eagles moved across the plate were enough to protect the lead.

Despite the letdown in the final inning, Sweet was able hold East Hall at bay for the large majority of the game.

Going the distance in the eight-inning game, he picked up the win and notched eight strikeouts.

He showed his scrambling ability early, avoiding trouble in the second inning after letting the first two batters reach base. He fielded a bunt and got the lead runner out at third for the first out and struck out the next two to avoid any damage.

He allowed two to score in the third, but left two more on base.

Gentry said his ability to avoid major damage was a major factor in Chestatee’s win.

“He pitched really well,” he said. “He hit a couple batters early, but did a great job of getting out of it without too much harm done.

“You can’t ask a pitcher to do much more than he did today.”

And his ability to fight back for an RBI double and finish the game after allowing three in the seventh shouldn’t go unnoticed either.

“He fought back,” Gentry said. “And it’s hard to tell a kid he can’t get back out there after that.”

East Hall recorded three singles in the seventh to fight back into the game. It was led by Hunter Buffington, who was 3 for 5 with two doubles and an RBI. Jonathan Woodring picked up the loss on the mound, but was 1 for 3 with two RBIs at the plate, and right fielder John Smith was 2 for 4 with an RBI.

Chestatee hosts West Hall today, and East Hall plays next at Chestatee on Monday.

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