RINGGOLD, Ga. -- The high school baseball season is not yet a week old, but Eric Beagles is already thinking ahead. In Georgia's Region 7-AAA, the early part of a schedule had better be productive, and Beagles' Heritage Generals are aiming high this year.
Thursday's 7-2 win over Class AAAA Northwest Whitfield was a solid victory for the now 2-0 Generals, but Beagles knows it will take more to compete in a region with three of the top five ranked teams in Class AAA.
"The pace wasn't what we wanted, and that kind of affects everything with us," said Beagles, whose team spotted the Bruins a first-inning run but scored three in the third. "So we talked about addressing that in the future. We didn't start out very strong tonight, but it was good to weather that early storm and to answer when they scored late."
Junior pitcher Dalton Belk earned the win with four strong innings, allowing three hits and an unearned run and striking out five. However, Northwest loaded the bases in the first on two hits and an error, and when Belk walked Luke Hensley to force in a run -- still with no one out -- the pitcher's fate was in serious doubt.
Belk, though, struck out the next two batters and ended the inning with a groundout to escape the jam. He then faced one batter over the minimum the next three innings.
"Dalton pitched a good game. He had a rough start, but he regrouped," Heritage catcher Hunter White said. "I told him to settle down, that we had his back and to just throw strikes. and he did."
The Generals left a runner at third in each of the first two innings but finally got to Northwest starter Matt Allen in the third with a three-run rally that started with two two-out walks. Jake Sampson followed with a two-run double over first base, with White adding another run on a double to left-center.
Heritage added two runs in the fifth and sixth innings, with Austin Morris and Jacob Carter getting two-run hits, while relievers Jarred Porter and Blake Hamilton limited Northwest to one run and three hits in the final three innings.
"Right now, our goal is to continue to get our pitchers ready for what will be a tough region schedule," Beagles said. "They're a little bit ahead of where we were in the past. We're headed to Atlanta this weekend to play Alexander and Chapel Hill, games that will help us get ready for the region."
Lee Gibson had two of Heritage's seven hits, while Edwin Hernandez had two for Northwest (3-2).
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...