Lee County third baseman Robbie Feagans applies the tag to Crisp County’s Witt Campbell in the first inning Thursday night at Lee County High School. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
LEESBURG — Landon Whitman wanted to finish so badly. However, he knew his 75-pitch count was rapidly approaching.
Behind a one-hit, 11-strikeout performance from the stocky Crisp County senior left-hander, the Cougars spoiled the coaching debut of Lee County’s Brandon Brock in a 2-0 shutout in Thursday’s opening game of the Lee County High School Baseball Tournament.
Brock, a former assistant, was promoted to the helm after longtime coach Rob Williams announced his retirement after last season.
In a matchup more suited for later this year, Whitman locked horns with Lee County’s TJ Roberts in a pitcher’s duel that was just as good as a Clayton Kershaw vs. Tim Lincecum battle, minus the multi-million dollar salaries.
Crisp managed just five hits but manufactured a pair of runs — one in the fourth off an RBI single from Stewart Tyler, then another off Lee reliever Michael Reddick in the fifth when Witt Campbell crossed the plate on a double steal.
That was all the run support needed for Whitman, who appeared to get stronger as the game progressed.
“I felt like I was just starting to warm up about the fourth inning,” said Whitman, whose only hit allowed was an infield single to No. 9 hitter Mason Wisener.
“I have another pitch, a knuckle-ball, but it wasn’t working when I was warming up. My change-up was working pretty good, and I had a pretty good fastball.”
In a game that lasted just one hour and 37 minutes, both teams showed they could be pretty good come postseason time.
Crisp County (1-0), after making the Class AAAA state semifinals last season, should be one of the state’s top teams with a pitching staff that features Whitman, Tyler, Campbell and Taylor Walls, who worked a 1-2-3 scoreless seventh inning in relief of Whitman.
“We’ve got some major mountains to climb to get where we want to be,” said Crisp County coach Bill Pate. “These guys have been working hard since last May 20 (when we lost to Marist in the state semifinals).”
Whitman threw just 68 pitches, and Pate said he decided not to send him back to finish the game on an unseasonably warm night.
“The weather made it easy,” Pate said. “He could not have gone that long had it been cold. But I was very pleased.”
Crisp’s Devin Taylor was the only multi-hit player on either club, finishing 2-for-3. Chris McGinnis and Campbell also had singles.
Roberts took the loss but was strong in his debut. He allowed just one run on five hits and struck out three. Reddick was also sharp. With the exception of the fifth, he was nearly flawless in relief.
The Trojans (0-1) have a chance to make an early-season statement this afternoon when they entertain Class AAAAAA power Colquitt County.
“Those guys (Crisp County) bring a good level of ball to the table,” Brock said. “Coach Pate has done a good job with them. We got outplayed and outcoached (Thursday). But it’s early. When you get to May, you’re not worried about what happened on Feb. 20.”