GAINESVILLE — Most of those who braved the sub-40-degree temperature would understand if North Hall senior pitcher Caleb Clark blamed the weather on what he considered a sub-par performance Monday night against Dawson County.
After all, the majority of the crowd, and some players themselves were extremely busy sipping hot chocolate to try and keep warm.
Still, Clark’s four innings were good enough to hold off the Tigers after a shaky start as the Trojans rallied for a 6-4 win in the two teams’ Region 7-3A opener at Jody Davis Field.
“Honestly, the weather didn’t have much to do with it. I just didn’t throw strikes,” Clark said. “My team needs me to be better. I’m glad we got the win but I definitely need to be better the rest of the way.”
Clark, who walked five but struck out seven, managed to outduel the Tigers’ Cameron Moore, who last 4 2/3 innings but walked six and fanned 10. Moore was handed a 3-0 lead after the opening frame as Dawson County (2-2, 0-1 Region 7-3A) jumped on Clark early. But he couldn’t hold it as the Trojans (2-6, 1-0) scored the final four runs after trailing 4-2 in the second.
Clark walked Hudson Sapp on four pitches to open the game and gave up hits to TJ Allen and Mauricio Hernandez, sandwiched around an error, as Hernandez drove in Sapp for a 1-0 lead. Clark later walked Tyler Rucker with the bases loaded bringing in Allen for a 2-0 lead after just five batters.
Clark recovered to strike out Nick Mullinax and get Andrew Burt to pop to first, but Bo Lewis, who reached on an error, scored on an errant throw on a pickoff attempt to make it 3-0.
But Moore ran into his own trouble in the bottom of the first. Moore walked Clark to start and plunked Caleb Wiley. Jackson Dyer followed with a walk to load the bases and David Seavey reached on a one-out error driving in Clark. Dylan Wiley also reached on an error allowing Caleb Wiley to score.
However, Moore recovered as well fanning Caden Bales and Kelton Kieschnick to get out of the inning with the Tigers still hanging on to a 3-2 lead.
Dawson County added another unearned run on two more North Hall miscues in the top of the second. The Trojans answered with three runs in the bottom of the second, highlighted by an RBI double from Clark, as they took advantage of two Tigers errors.
Clark and Moore both settled down in the third. Clark struck out the side in the third and retired the final seven and eight of the last nine batters he faced. Moore pitched around a two-base error to strand a runner at third in the third and got out of a first-and-third situation in the fourth.
Wes Tadman came on to pitch for North Hall to start the fifth. The junior right-hander pitched the final three innings allowing just a pair of seventh-inning doubles and striking out three to get the save.
“I thought Wes really pitched well,” North Hall coach Trevor Flow said. “He’s been through a lot and is really just now learning how to pitch. I think he’s going to be a big part for us this year if he keeps improving.”
Brandon Cramer relieved Moore with two out in the fifth and balked in Tadman for a 6-4 North Hall lead.
The North Hall defense also was a big factor late. Kieschnick robbed Andrew Burt of a hit at third in the fifth, and in the seventh, Lewis doubled to left off Tadman but was subsequently picked off for the first out. That was a huge play as Rucker later doubled with two out. Tadman got Mullinax, the potential tying run, to fly out to center to seal the win.
“Defensively we’re right there,” Clark said. “We just need to find some hits on offense and I need to pitch better. If we can do those things, I think we can start putting some wins together.”
The two teams’ will resume their three-game series on Wednesday in Dawsonville and then return to Jody Davis Field on Friday. First pitch for both games is slated for 5:55 p.m.