Second-ranked Etowah used five pitchers and outhit third-ranked Luella en route to a 7-2 win.
Though the atmosphere didn’t line up with the type of game being played, Etowah coach Greg Robinson still maintained that playing quality opponents during spring break would help the Eagles (15-4) in finishing the rest of the season.
“We’re really coming into our big, tough region schedule,” Robinson said. “Over the break, you hope everyone gets a little bit of rest, but we had a couple of really good days at practice this week on Wednesday and Thursday. (On Friday), we got some good swings (in a 15-5 win over Alpharetta), and (Saturday) it just carried over. I was real pleased to see it.”
For Luella (13-5), Saturday’s continued a slump in its season after it was ranked among the top 25 in Baseball America’s national poll. The Lions have lost their last three games and are headed back into their own region schedule looking to raise their level of play.
“We’ve been struggling coming into this game,” Luella coach Andy Cooper said. “This is our third loss in a row, so it’s probably been two or three years since that’s happened in our program. The kids are a little bit mentally checked out. We’re trying to get mentally focused again. It’s time to make a run at it and get back in our region schedule and do what we have to do.”
Etowah’s win was its third in four games, and it gives the Eagles momentum ahead of its clash with Region 5AAAAA co-leader Lassiter on Wednesday.
“I just think about our hitters making quality swings, making routine plays,” Robinson said. “That’s what’s important. You’d better bring your ‘A’ game against good teams. We have to get ready for Lassiter next week, as they are the No. 1 team in our region.”
Etowah won in spite of a tough start for starter Tanner Shelton.
Shelton walked the first two batters of the game, including leadoff hitter Reise McDaniel, who ultimately scored on a wild pitch after stealing second and third. Shelton, however, settled down and struck out the two of the last three batters he faced to hold Luella to one run in the first inning.
Shelton finished his day after the second inning with four strikeouts and two walks, allowing one run without a hit.
The Eagles used four more pitchers after Shelton — Jamie Thaggard, Parker Acuff, Tim Yandel and Caleb Woods. Woods closed the game out in the seventh by striking out the side.
“Everyone had command over multiple pitches (Saturday), which is something we haven’t had earlier this year,” Robinson said. “I’m pleased with the way Thaggard threw the ball. Acuff, Yandel and Shelton pitched well after we had a defensive debacle, and Woods has been on it all year.”
In the first inning, Etowah responded at the plate with all of the run support it would need for the game.
With the bases loaded following two walks and a single, Cameron Sperry hit a sharp grounder that bounced over Luella first baseman Eric Pape into right field and, after a fielding error, Trent Wildermuth scored. In the next at-bat, Cody Mazzatenta drove in Yandel from third for the third run of the inning.
After Thaggard allowed a run in the top of the third, Etowah punctuated its victory by getting two runs back in the bottom half of the frame, by virtue of a solo home run by Yandel and an RBI single by Mazzatenta. Etowah would score two more runs in the bottom of the fourth on a Yandel groundout and a wild pitch that scored Wildermuth from third.