If his halo indeed had slipped, Christian Burnett righted it Thursday evening as McCallie took the opener of a three-game baseball series, 6-5 over Baylor.
Dropped two spots to No. 5 in the Blue Tornado's batting order, Burnett went 3-for-3 and accounted for three runs, including the game-winner.
"He had been struggling, but he also had put in the work in the cage and at home," McCallie coach Greg Payne said. "He'd been our three-hole guy all season except for the last two games, and we wanted him to relax.
"It looked tonight like he was in the right spot."
Burnett doubled in two runs in the Tornado's four-run third when they overcame a 3-1 Baylor advantage. Then after Baylor had closed within a run at 5-4, his double to right-center scored Matthew Brock with what would be the winning run.
Brock had a rough night in the field but came through when it counted.
The third baseman launched one throw well over the first baseman's head -- "It just got away from me," he said -- and then missed, according to the base umpire, on a bang-bang play. That one brought a disgruntled Payne out for an explanation in a brief but nose-to-nose discussion with the ump.
Brock, though, scored the run that put McCallie up 5-3 in the third and then reached on an error and came around with the eventual winner.
He also came in to pitch in the seventh and picked up his second save of the season, inducing a grounder to second and striking out the final two Baylor batters.
Both starters struggled but Connor Mansell (4-1) made it through the sixth while Dustin Baker (2-2) was lifted between the third and fourth innings.
"Conner didn't have his best stuff, but it was good enough," Payne said.
Helping Burnett offensively were John Hennen with a double and a single and Tanner Buchanan with a double and a single and two RBIs.
For Baylor, Hunter Holland and Blake Layne each had two hits and an RBI, and Jackson Cooper's one hit chased home two runs.
The win was the first for Payne in four contests as a head coach opposing Baylor legend Gene Etter. His first three games were in previous coaching stops.
"I was in the stands last year as a parent and got a glimpse of what this game's about," Payne said. "It was exactly what I thought. Both sides got into it and it was intense. As a coach, you want to be able to coach in games like this."
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for McCallie and extended Baylor's loss streak to four games.
Weather permitting, the series resumes at 4:30 this afternoon with a doubleheader scheduled at Baylor.
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...