Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Peachtree Ridge's Steven Bowman slides safely into second as Duluth's Chris Rich, left, misses the throw on Tuesday.
SUWANEE — Jared Walsh and his teammates on Peachtree Ridge’s baseball team definitely have long memories.
And after letting a five-run lead after five innings slip away at Collins Hill a week ago, the senior left-hander wasn’t about to leave anything to chance in Tuesday’s Region 7-AAAAA game with Duluth.
Walsh struck out the side in the sixth and then pitched around an unearned run in the seventh to close out a 3-1 Lions victory over the Wildcats at Lion Field.
“Right before we went out there (in the sixth), I told everybody, ‘This was the inning that did us in last week,’” the University of Georgia signee said. “We’re up by three. We’ve got to finish it off.”
And finish Walsh (2-3) did, capping a complete-game effort in which he gave up just three hits and the unearned run and struck out 10 Duluth batters with just one walk to help Peachtree Ridge move to 7-6 overall and 3-2 in region play.
Walsh needed to be as sharp as he was because Wildcats starter John Clark (2-2) was also dealing, scattering five hits and two earned runs over six innings with eight strikeouts on just one walk in going the distance.
“Clark threw the ball well,” Lions coach Ryan Hanik said. “We were able to capitalize on some defensive miscues. But what we’ve been preaching since (the Collins Hill loss) last Wednesday (is), I don’t care if it’s 9-0, we have to play 21 outs.”
The Lions did cash in on some shaky Duluth defense early on.
An outfield error cost the Wildcats a chance for a play at the plate on Brett Polachek’s RBI single in the bottom of the first, while another error and a passed ball led to an unearned run in the second pushed Peachtree Ridge’s lead to 2-0.
“We’ve played really good defense and our pitching has been dominant all year long,” Duluth coach Matt Champitto said. “The last two games, we just have not played very good defense, and it’s cost us some runs that really hurt.”
With the way Walsh was pitching, Cole Rives’ RBI single through a drawn-in infield in the fifth made Peachtree Ridge’s 3-0 lead look insurmountable.
Then again, so did the 5-0 advantage the Lions held in Walsh’s outing at Collins Hill last week before a third strike to the leadoff hitter wound up at the backstop and ignited a five-run sixth inning.
This time, the lefty fanned all three Duluth hitters, with catcher Tyler Chaney blocking a third strike in the dirt and throwing out the runner at first for the final out of the inning with the Lions’ three-run lead intact.
Walsh had just one more obstacle to overcome after Alex Raffensperger led off the top of the seventh with a single and moved to second on a balk.
Polachek snagged Jacob Timmie’s liner to first and Walsh made a nifty play on Zack Erwin’s dribbler down the first-place line to record the second out.
And even though a run came home when Noah Hoback’s fly ball popped out of Rives’ glove, the Peachtree Ridge rightfielder redeemed himself by staying with the play and throwing out the Duluth designated hitter to end the game.