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High school baseball: Chestatee drops back-and-forth game to Habersham Central
War Eagles leave runners astray in loss
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Chestatee's Will Cantrell (8) pitches Friday as Chestatee plays Habersham Central at Chestatee High School. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Chestatee baseball coach Jon Brewer so far has experienced the highs and lows in the first 14 games with the program — Some lows remaining a constant.

One of those is finding ways to score more runs.

And in Friday night’s non-region contest with Class AAAAAA Habersham Central, the War Eagles tasted that success in brief moments throughout, but it wasn't enough. The visiting Raiders capitalized in a variety of ways win a back-and-forth game, 7-5, and complete the series sweep at War Eagle Field in Gainesville.

The War Eagles (6-8), who entered the series winners of six of their last seven, managed out-hit the Raiders 11-8, but left eight runners stranded, including four in scoring position.

It’s been a recurring theme for the first-year War Eagles coach, especially during its five-game losing streak the start the season.

“We consistently talk about wanting to hit with runners on base and wanting to hit with two outs, and taking pride in that,” the coach added.

“It’s time for these kids to start coming up with big hits, and we have had some to come up with some big hits, but it’s part of the growing pains. We gotta get those guys in, especially at third with less than two outs. That’s losing baseball, and we can’t do it.”

The War Eagles had a perfect hitting outing from shortstop Joe Sutton (4 for 4, two runs scored), who led off the bottom of the first with a standup triple to left field and scored on a Sean Irick (1 for 2, RBI) single for the first run of the game. They got two hits from catcher Micah Flanagan (2 for 4) as well. Junior right fielder Reggie James connected for a fourth-inning triple and later scored the War Eagles’ fourth run of the day on a fielder’s choice.

Habersham Central (9-3) meanwhile started slow in a 1,2,3 first inning, but went on to add yet another rally to extend their winning streak to five games. The Raiders got some timely hits to score four runs in the top of the third and three in the bottom of the sixth.

Senior Cole Wilbanks led with two hits for Habersham Central.

“This team has a lot of character and fight, and we’re blessed to be sitting at 9-3 right now. At least half of our wins this year we’ve come from behind,” Habersham Central coach Chris Akridge said.

“I’m very proud of our guys, and it was a team effort,” he added. We had several guys that made big plays on defense, several guys to come up with some big at bats in clutch situations. And Chestatee is a very good team. Coach Brewer over there is doing an outstanding job.”

The Raiders reached base and moved runners in a variety of ways to score their runs, plating their first on a double steal from senior Brandon Mitchell at first base and senior Brice Austin at third. Mitchell was thrown out at second, but Austin crossed after the throw.

The Raiders added three more runs with two outs that same inning behind a Jarred Jones RBI-double to right, followed by one-run singles by Wilbanks and sophomore Colby Jones.

A two-RBI single from Mitchell and a Seth Blackburn sacrifice fly to deep-center accounted for the Raiders’ final runs scored in the top of the sixth.

Akridge said their adjustments to the off-speed pitch was a great indication in their success.

“These were two of the better pitchers we’ve seen (in the series),” Akridge added. “We were able to settle in and lay off some off-speed pitches in the dirt that put us back into some favorable counts. We were able to get some fastballs and square them up.”

Raiders also got a double play from shortstop Mitchell, who preserved their one-run lead in the bottom of the fourth against a charging Chestatee with two runners on and one out. He snagged a liner up the middle and immediately tossed to Austin for the final out of the inning.”

Chestatee visits Marist to open reigon play at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Atlanta. Habersham Central visits Franklin County at 1 p.m. today.

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