The first-year Trojan skipper — like the majority of folks on hand — was bundled in layers of clothing by night’s end, but he was pleased with the way his team came out ready to play behind a three-run first inning that set the tone for the mercy-rule victory.
“Well, it’s about the players. They came out and they played hard. It definitely wasn’t the best conditions, but they played well. We ran the bases extremely well. I was very happy about that. Some guys looked good at the plate. We hit the ball well and were able to do some things with the hit-and-run. We looked good [Thursday],” Zaideman said.
Carrollton (2-0) got things started in the opening at-bat of the bottom of the first when Sam Turner drew a walk and Christopher Hicks reached on an error. Sam Turner stole second and third and scored when Andrew Turner singled him home for the first run of the game. Hicks then scored on a passed ball and Andrew Turner came around on an RBI sacrifice fly by John Gaiter to give Trojan starter Tucker Reynolds some early support.
The junior right-hander was impressive on the hill, tossing four shutout innings, allowing two hits with one walk and two strikeouts to earn the victory.
“Tucker threw the ball extremely well. He attacked the strike zone, forced a lot of bad contact and kept them off-balance,” Zaideman said.
Carrollton tacked on four more runs in the bottom of the third, with Gaiter delivering the big blow of the frame — a two-run single — pushing the score to 7-0. The Trojans got another run in the fourth on an Andrew Turner RBI single before the Spartans (2-1) got an unearned run in the fifth. Sam Turner drew an RBI walk in the bottom of the fifth and Carrollton iced the game behind an RBI single from Cain Sauls and an RBI sacrifice fly off the bat of Wil Garrett in the bottom of the sixth.
Offensively, Andrew Turner led Carrollton’s eight-hit attack with a 3-for-3 effort, scoring two runs and driving home a pair, while Gaiter also had a solid night, going 1-for-2 with a sacrifice fly, a run scored and three RBI.
Senior Taylor Smith relieved Reynolds and worked two-thirds of an inning and Max Driver closed out the game, tossing 1.1 innings of shutout ball, recording three strikeouts.
And on a night where weather proved to be a factor — the Spartans made six errors to Carrollton’s one — staying focused on the defensive side of the ball was critical.
“We got a little sloppy at the end. But I was glad to see Max come in and settle down and throw strikes. He’s going to be a big part of our bullpen this year, and I was glad to see that,” Zaideman said. “That was probably the sloppiest our defense has looked this year, but it was late in the game. We need to finish a little stronger.”
Even though temperatures weren’t ideal, after being out of action for more than a week — including having their trip to Florida washed out this past weekend — the Trojans were pumped to hit the field, regardless of how cold and windy it was Thursday.
“These guys had cabin fever. They’ve been itching to get out here. We didn’t need to say much to them. They were ready to go,” Zaideman said.
And now with three games in three days, Carrollton will get its fill of quality baseball, returning to action tonight at 6 against Pope at the University of West Georgia and then hosting Dunwoody back at Carrollton on Saturday at 2 p.m.
“Especially with the weather and everything pushing this game back, now we’ve got three games straight. South Paulding’s a good program. Coach [Pecos] Galamore does a real good job with them. Now we’ve got Pope, who’s [Class AAAAA], and you’ve Dunwoody. So that’s three very good programs right in a row and the conditions don’t get any better. I think every game we’ve had, it feels like about low, 30-degree weather,” Zaideman said.