Chiefs get better of Cougars in 8-3 victory at Newnan
by Chris Goltermann
The bats weren’t nearly as cold as Monday’s plummeting temperatures and the glove of sophomore right-fielder Brady Barnes caught fire with two outstanding defensive putouts.
But too many counts favored McIntosh hitters, and it was as much a reason why the Chiefs made a pair of Newnan pitchers pay dearly at times in an 8-3 victory in a non-region game at Joe Pope Field that played closer than its final score.
The Cougars only struck out four times, the last of which to close Monday’s loss. They also hung in early with a 2-0 lead thanks to a hit and two defensive miscues by McIntosh’s infield in the bottom of the second.
But neither managed to translate into a potential victory against the undefeated Chiefs, who moved to 4-0 overall.
Instead, Newnan left 12 runners on base — at least one in every inning — and the Chiefs made the most of a dozen hits, including three apiece from from catcher Andrew Johnson, who had two RBIs and reached base in all four of his at bats.
The last of Johnson’s three singles in the top of the fifth posed as the most frustrating on a night where Cougars starting pitcher, junior Matt Thomley, pitched out of jams in the first, second and fourth.
Newnan finished with seven hits, including three from center-fielder Justin Groover.
“We’ve been hitting the ball well and we’re playing OK defensively,” said Newnan head coach Marc Gilmore, whose Cougars fell to 1-4 heading into Wednesday’s rematch in Peachtree City. “Tonight we just didn’t have the pitching. We were throwing too many fastballs because we were behind in counts. That’s on me. I have to do a better job.”
Thomley — who threw a first-pitch strike 14 times over the 24 batters he faced, gave up six runs on seven hits, only one of which went for extra bases.
McIntosh used three hits, though, in the fifth to take a lead for good on a three-run rally with RBIs from the Chiefs’ 3-4-5 hitters — starting with Trey Walters’ single to left.
Pushing ahead 3-2 with a lead for good, Walters singled similarly in the fifth with one out before catching a break while dangling off first. A pickoff attempt from home plate bounded into right field allowing the Chiefs standout to avoid being doubled-up on an ensuing grounder to short.
Walters, instead, moved to third with two outs and Johnson proceeded to get enough of his bat on a chopper between first and second that caught the edge of the infield grass and hopped over the glove-shoulder of Newnan first baseman Caleb McElwaney for a 4-2 McIntosh advantage.
It was the first of three consecutive hits for the Chiefs and an ensuing single to right brought on left-hander Sam Sowerbrower. The Newnan reliever was greeted with a double into the right-center gap by Dane Bulloch, scoring both McIntosh runners, who had moved up on a wild pitch for a 6-2 Chiefs lead.
Even with seven hits of their own, the Cougars couldn’t seem to catch another break after plating two unearned runs off McIntosh reliever Tre Hudak in the second inning. The Chiefs finished with four errors, two of which came in the second.
Groover posted hits in his first three at bats, but was left stranded each time. The Cougars left multiple runners on in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh while unable to add to Cody Barnes’ RBI single that loaded the bases with one out in Newnan’s final at bat.
By then, McIntosh had plated two final runs in the fifth, even after Gilmore successfully challenged a potential two-run double by Walters past the third-base bag that was ruled fair. But after Sowerbrower battled back to strike out the Chief after the play was reversed, McIntosh’s Duke Kinnamon fought off a 3-2 pitch for a two-run single past short.
The rally finally ended with Barnes making the first of two remarkable catches in right. The sophomore got turned around while battling the wind, blowing from left to right, but found the ball as he fell to the ground.
The following inning, the Cougar outfielder dove toward the line in right for another nifty putout, before getting to his feet and ending the inning by doubling up a runner at first.
“He’s really starting to find his stride,” Gilmore said of Barnes. “He’s been our leadoff guy and he’s found a home there. These younger guys are pushing for playing time and he’s fighting to stay out there.”
CHIEFS 8, COUGARS 3
McIntosh 003 032 0 — 8 12 4
Newnan 020 000 1 — 3 7 1
WP — Tre Hudak
LP — Matt Thomley