The first game of the high school baseball season functions as an evaluation process, especially when the games are between two teams in different classifications and don’t carry any implications in the region standings.
“Early games are great for teaching the game,” Buford (0-1) coach Tony Wolfe said after Wednesday’s 7-6 loss to North Hall at Jody Davis Field. “Right now, we’re trying to get players some experience and see who is ready to play.
“We still have to work the kinks out.”
Of course, at this early stage of the season and battling cold conditions — not ideal for hitting a baseball with an aluminum bat — both teams had a mixed bag of results to learn from.
North Hall scored the eventual game-winning runs in the bottom of the sixth inning with RBI singles from Chris Stevens and Ryan Pitts.
The Trojans (1-0) also scored three unearned runs in the fifth and five total for the game. Two of those came with the bases loaded on a fielding error by the Wolves’ center fielder.
Trojans coach Trent Mongero boiled the opening-day victory down to the fact that they were able to hold on for a one-run victory, after losing five games by one run last season.
“I hope this will set a good trend for our team and give our team some confidence,” Mongero said.
The upside for the North Hall in its opening night victory was the fact that it finished with nine hits, including two hits each from Lee Sisson, Stevens and Pitts. However, the Trojans also had 11 strikeouts and left the bases loaded twice during the game.
Jackson Coker added a two-run double for North Hall in the third inning that scored Sisson, who reached on a lead-off double, and Jacob Brewster, who reached on a two-out walk.
“I thought it was a well played game for the first game of the season,” Mongero said. “But we needed more quality at bats, especially there early in the game.”
Buford’s main highlight was the hitting of freshman Mason Gentry, who connected on a two-run home run in the fourth inning that scored Josh Heddinger (two runs scored), and then hit an RBI triple in the seventh that helped the Wolves rally to within one run with two outs in the inning.
“Yeah, we think he (Mason) is going to be a good one,” Wolfe said. “At 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds, he’s not your typical freshman.”
The Wolves also scored a run in the sixth inning on a single from Tyler White (2-for-4). Heddinger also had two hits for Buford.
Wolfe says he’d like to improve on hitting with runners in scoring position, consistency with pitching (11 strikeouts, eight walks) and a few fielding mistakes to take care of before the games start counting in a tough Region 6-AA.
“We’ll go home and just look to cleanup on the areas we need to improve,” he said.
North Hall plays host to Lakeview at 5 p.m. today. Buford entertains Lambert at 5:55 p.m. Friday at Buford City Park.