“I think the count was 2-1, and I knew he was trying to pump a fastball by me,” said Nixon, a rising senior and a Kennesaw State commitment. “I got my foot down and took it the other way, and it was a game-changer.”
Nixon’s hit may have been a game-changer, but it wasn’t a game-ender.
Play was suspended after the night’s second lightning delay threatened to push the game past curfew at Pope High School. Instead, the teams were scheduled to resume play in the top of the sixth inning this morning, with a 9 a.m. start at the East Cobb Baseball Complex.
The winner of the resumed game will advance to play a second-round game at 12:30 p.m. against another East Cobb team, the 16-and-under Astros. The quarterfinals would then follow at 3 p.m., creating the possiblity of a long day.
“It’s tough to stop early, but you got to do what you got to do,” said Blue Jays starter Caleb Kutsche, another rising Lassiter senior, who allowed just three hits over five innings of work. “I guess fair is fair, and that’s baseball.”
South Florida starter Shaun Anderson had retired six consecutive batters before Nixon’s two-out triple, one of a small number of balls that left the infield in a game marked by dominant outings for both starting pitchers.
You had two good pitchers just going at it,” East Cobb coach Chris Butler said. “Caleb came out and commanded the zone. That was the biggest thing. He’s got a good slider and a good curveball going, but he’s using the fastball to set those up.”
South Florida’s Shaun Anderson struck out seven batters over five innings and touched as high as 91 mph on the radar gun with his fastball. Kutsche, meanwhile, capped his spotless night on the mound by directing a crucial rundown in the top of the fifth inning to preserve his team’s slim lead.
After South Florida baserunner C.J. Chatham stole third base on the first pitch after the initial lightning delay, Kutsche walked Brandon Vicens to set up South Florida’s best scoring opportunity of the night. Chatham broke for home after Vicens goaded Kutsche into a rundown between first and second base, but Kutsche wheeled and threw to catcher Travis Wildermuth, who applied the tag just in time.
“I knew he was going to take off eventually. I just had to get him to bite first,” Kutsche said of the rundown. “My foot actually slipped there (on the throw) and made it a little closer than I wanted to, but it got the job done.”