Darton State College shortstop Ventavis Jerger applies the tag to West Georgia Tech’s Garrett Hayes Tuesday afternoon at Darton. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
ALBANY - Darton State baseball coach Scot Hemmings would prefer not to tear into his players about sleeping through the first few innings and then having to play catch-up.
Sensing his team was about to fall under the same spell Tuesday afternoon, the head coach reticently went back to the coaching method.
But this time the Cavaliers responded – in a big way. Led by starting pitcher John Harmon, who went the distance without walking a single batter, Darton belted out 13 hits on its way to a 13-3 series-opening win over West Georgia Tech at Cavalier Field.
“We’ve yet to get off to a fast start as our hitters are waiting about four or five innings to start having productive at-bats,” Hemmings explained. “And [Tuesday] you saw it again in the [third] inning after I get a little upset, we start having productive at-bats and drop down a few bunts and put a little pressure on them, we put up 13 runs on the board.
“If we want to be the caliber-team we need to be we’ve got to start having those productive at-bats in the first inning.”
Riliani Familia finished three-for-five at the plate with three runs and two RBIs. Brandon Sharpe and Luis Salas each went two-for-five with three RBIs and a run scored. In addition to the hitting, the Cavaliers had a myriad of scoring opportunities thanks to their aggressiveness on the base paths resulting in several stolen bases.
“We put this team together to be a high run-producing team that puts pressure on,” Hemmings said. “A lot of our speed guys hadn’t been getting on, but you see what they can do when they do reach base. We lay down bunts, we steal bases, we hit the ball on the ground, but we are a little reluctant right now to buy into that in the first two or three innings.”
While seeing the Cavaliers’ bats come alive was a welcomed sight, the game belonged to Harmon who not only battled the Golden Knights (6-19), but also ripping winds.
“It was definitely a factor, but I tried not to let it get in my head too much,” said Harmon, who gave up three runs and struck out five to improve to 4-0 on the year. “I knew the ball was elevated [Tuesday] and had a better chance of going out, but I just tried to keep the ball low and not let it be a factor too much.”
After giving up a solo shot in the second, Harmon was credited for two more runs in the third giving the Knights an early 3-0 advantage. The Cavaliers followed with five runs in the bottom of the third inning, and from there Harmon was virtually unhittable, working the count in his favor with early strikes.
“It seems like when my offense gets into a groove, I seem to get into a groove,” Harmon admitted. “They definitely lifted me up with all those hits and runs, and gave me the momentum and confidence I need to do my job.”
In case the offense wasn’t enough, Harmon also had superb defense, both infield and outfield, as a backup. The same could not be said for West Georgia, which committed six errors including two costly ones in the third inning that led to four of the five Cavalier runs.
Darton is now 18-13 on the season and 9-4 in conference play for a third-place standing. It will finish the series with the Knights this weekend.
“This win is huge; anytime you win like that on Tuesday it sets the tempo for the whole weekend,” Hemmings said. “But we can’t sit here like we’re done because we have three more games to try and earn a victory.”