Tyler Britton had the game-winning strikeout in Dalton High School’s baseball season opener Thursday.
The oddity is that he was the batter.
The Catamounts’ 5-1 win against Coa-hulla Creek was called after five innings due to rain, and Catamounts coach Shane Ramsey’s first victory wearing his new colors also included an unorthodox ending.
After Dalton scored all five of its runs in the bottom of the fifth, the rain started coming down harder with two outs in the inning and Cats runners on second and third. After a meeting with the umpires during a pitching change for the Colts, Ramsey spoke to Britton, who was at the plate.
The sophomore center fielder, who finished the game 1-for-3, then haphazardly swung early on all three of Erick Dominguez’s pitches to end the inning and make it an “official game,” according to Georgia High School Association rules.
A game becomes official once five full innings are played, according the GHSA Constitution and By-Laws. If the game is called due to weather before the end of the fifth inning, it is not official; if replayed, it must begin from the first inning. Umpires called for a weather delay immediately following Britton’s at-bat, and 10 minutes later they called the game.
“I knew we had to get through that inning,” said Ramsey, who became Dalton’s baseball coach after leading Northwest Whitfield High School’s softball program from 2009-2011 — he was also an assistant for Northwest baseball for the past nine seasons — and compiling a 70-34 record in that sport.
“That’s why I told him to swing and miss. I hate ending it like that, but we want to win.”
Coahulla Creek (1-1) coach Michael Bolen declined to comment about the ending.
With Coahulla Creek ahead 1-0 in the top of the fifth, Dalton pitcher Brandon Dale walked two straight batters and hit the next to load the bases with just one out.
Dale then struck out Blake Phillips and Zack Glines to escape the jam.
“It definitely kick-started us and let us know we had to get something going quick,” Dale said.
Jase Chastain’s double started the Cats’ fifth-inning rally, and Kaleb Hill’s infield single preceded Charlie Martin’s two-run single to give Dalton a 2-1 lead. Will Erwin’s single three batters later drove in Grant Sane, and Dale’s two-run double capped the game’s scoring. Coahulla Creek used three pitchers in the inning after Phillips lasted the first four, striking out four and only allowing three hits.
“(Phillips) reached his pitch limit,” said Bolen, whose team reached the Class 2A state playoffs last year in its inaugural season. “Everything we’re doing is preparing them for region and for state. So we’ve got the guys on a pitch count. ... He was on about a 50-to-55 pitch count and he was right at that number. That’s the reason why (we pulled him).”
The Colts scored in the fourth when Glines’ single drove in Tucker Sheram. On the next batter, Braiden Jacobs had a squeeze bunt in an attempt to bring in Scout Plott from third, but Dale threw home to Dakota Tankersley in time to keep the Colts from going ahead 2-0.
Dalton struggled to move runners around the bases in the first four innings. In four attempts, the Cats only succeeded on a sacrifice bunt once. In the third and fourth innings, Dalton had runners at first and second with one out but couldn’t move them along with bunts.
“We struggled to execute early on,” Ramsey said. “But what we’ve talked to the kids about, and talked about this whole year and even in the offseason was when we get our chance, good things will always happen. Brandon Dale threw a great game. He gave us a chance to win.”
Dale pitched a complete game, striking out seven batters while allowing five hits and four walks.
• Calhoun 4, Southeast Whitfield 2: With rain on diamonds around the area Thursday night, the Raiders played just five full innings in their second straight matchup with the Yellow Jackets to open the season.
Tyler Hale pitched all five innings for Southeast (0-2). He allowed only one earned run off three hits and four walks while striking out four.
All four Calhoun runs came in the first inning, similar to the Raiders’ 8-3 loss on Monday. Both games were played in Dalton because of work being done on Calhoun’s field.
“We played with them through five innings on Monday,” Raiders coach Brad Lofton said, “and played with them through five today. We just have to eliminate the one big inning. A similar thing happened Monday. They scored three runs in the first and didn’t score again until the sixth.”
Abram Stanley was 1-for-3 with a single, Southeast’s only hit. Calhoun had three hits.
“The inning we scored two, in the bottom of the third, we had a walk, an error and a balk called,” Lofton said. “Then they committed another error to give us another run.”
• Union County 6, North Murray 0: The Mountaineers played six innings of their season opener in Chatsworth before the game was called on account of rain.
Aaron Granger pitched 3 1/3 innings, allowing four earned runs and striking out seven. Ethan Lents pitched 2 2/3, allowing one earned run and striking out two.
But a messy field played a factor, Mountaineers coach Steve Granger said.
“Conditions were horrible,” he said. “It was just a tough night for everyone. They had four hits total.”
The Mountaineers also had four hits, with no one reaching base multiple times.
“Just a miserable night at the ballpark,” coach Granger said.