High School Baseball
Steele no-hits Tri-Cities in Newnan victory
by Chris Goltermann
Newnan’s baseball program entered the season without a defined No. 2 starting pitcher. And following Thursday’s game at Tri-Cities, this year’s team may still not have one.
That’s because sophomore right-hander Sawyer Steele performed more like the Cougars’ second No. 1 hurler, striking out 14 over six innings and joining reliever Heys Rowan for a no-hitter as Newnan blanked the visiting Bulldogs 6-0 at Joe Pope Field.
The two Cougars recorded 17 of 21 batters via strikes, with Rowan closing out the game with three straight in the top of the seventh.
It allowed Newnan, fresh off senior lefty Tanner Snellgrove’s victory on Tuesday, to take the first two games of this week’s Region 3-AAAAAA series. It will conclude today (weather permitting) with a final trip to East Point. Barring rain, teams will attempt to play Game 3 on Saturday at 11 a.m.
The Bulldogs might attempt a rain dance after struggling mightily against Steele, who was consistently in the zone during a 95-pitch outing that equally impressed Cougars head coach Marc Gilmore.
Steele threw 64 for strikes, fanning eight of his first nine batters. Tri-Cities had one ball reach the outfield and managed just five baserunners against the Cougar starter on an error, three walks and a hit batsman.
“That’s the Sawyer I know,” said Gilmore of Steele, who got ahead of the count 14 times with first-pitch strikes. “He had his breaking ball working. We have a lot of guys who can pitch and ones that are itching to get out there. I didn’t want to break Sawyer’s stride.”
Newnan’s offense erupted for four runs in the first off Bulldogs pitcher Demarco Boykin, finishing with six hits including back-to-back RBI doubles from Caleb McElwaney and Tyler Davis in the team’s opening at bat.
Justin Groover, K.D. Satterwhite and Conner Dunn also drove in runs for the Cougars in the victory. Groover capped off the first with a sacrifice fly.
Satterwhite drove in McElwaney in the sixth with both posting triples in the inning, the first of which caught Tri-Cities centerfielder Sal Vasquez out of position. Dunn make it 6-0 with an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth.
Brady Barnes finished 3-for-3 to go with McElwaney’s two hits. The only low point offensively was three base-runners that were cut down trying to advance, two on stolen-base attempts and the other when Satterwhite was tagged out on a wild-pitch that quickly ricocheted back to Tri-Cities catcher Michael Shealy.
Boykin had a tougher time on the mound for Tri-Cities while allowing five runs on six hits and a walk in addition to hitting four batters. Newnan senior Jake Kneidel was victimized twice, one on the hand and the other in the back.
Steele, meanwhile, hit a minor speedbump while cruising along through six innings, allowing runners to reach first and second in the sixth with one out after plunking leadoff hitter Dominique Francis and surrendering a six-pitch walk.
That brought Gilmore out for a brief conference on the mound to try and break some of the tension. And it worked.
“He was wearing a necklace and I asked him if it had magical powers,” Gilmore said, smiling. “Sometimes you just go out there and talk about anything to get his mind off it.”
The young right-hander responded by fanning Shealy on four pitches before Steele’s battery mate came up with a heads-up play of his own.
Behind the plate, Dunn spied Tri-Cities secondary runner dangling off first following Steele’s fourth pitch to Bulldog Sal Vasquez. A quick relay set up a rundown that ended with the Cougar pitcher making the tag at first for the final out of the inning.
“That’s a senior catcher with experience right there,” said Gilmore, giving Dunn credit. “We’re definitely taking steps forward.”
COUGARS 6, BULLDOGS 0
Tri-Cities 000 000 0 — 0 0 2
Newnan 401 001 x — 6 7 2
WP — Sawyer Steele.
LP — Demarco Boykin