Staff Photo: John Bohn Piedmont Colege starting pitcher Kevin Caldwell throws to an Oglethorpe University hitter during the Southern Classic college baseball showcase at Coolray Field Friday. Caldwell played high school baseball at South Gwinnett High School.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- In the sunny, still February air, a rousing round of cheers went up for Kevin Caldwell as the stadium announcer named him the game-winning pitcher.
It was a sparse crowd at Coolray Field for the first game of the Southern Classic six-team tournament Friday. But that just meant the noise from Caldwell's friends and family didn't have any competition.
Caldwell surely deserved the applause.
The South Gwinnett grad went eight innings, allowed just one run on two hits and a pair of walks. The lanky junior also struck out 10 as Piedmont improved to 3-0 this season. The Lions got their bats going in the late innings and beat Oglethorpe 7-1 in the tournament opener at the home field of the Gwinnett Braves.
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity that I'll never forget," Caldwell said of playing at Coolray. "Just the atmosphere is so cool. You come here and watch games, so to get to play here is really special."
Scoreless through a quick-moving five and a half innings, Piedmont manufactured two runs in the sixth -- just an inning after Oglethorpe starting pitcher Emmett Goodman was hit in the shoulder on a sharp comebacker.
Oglethorpe (1-2), which featured a pair of seniors out of Central Gwinnett in the lineup -- catcher Joe Parillo and second-baseman Jake Spear -- answered with its only run off Caldwell in the top of the seventh. Parillo, who finished 2-for-4 with a double, had hit in the inning before Caldwell got two of his 10 K's at the critical juncture and Piedmont held onto its lead.
"I thought I was a little shaky early," Caldwell said. "But I settled down and thankfully we got some runs there in the late inning."
Piedmont followed that up with two runs in the seventh off a towering homer from catcher Garrett Lovelace and three runs in the eighth.
Caldwell, who got the Petrels out in order in the eighth, now awaits his next start in a week. Today and Sunday, he gets to enjoy the rest of the games at Coolray.
"I'll be in the dugout cheering them on," Caldwell said.
Due to forecasts calling for afternoon rain today, the game between Emory and Piedmont was moved up to 10 a.m. Oglethorpe will play LaGrange at 1 p.m. as planned.
Sunday's schedule remains unchanged for the time being. Piedmont plays LaGrange at 1 p.m. and Emory faces Oglethorpe at 4 p.m.
Emory (3-0) beat LaGrange (0-3) on a walk-off walk for a 4-3 victory in Friday's second game. Sophomore Brandon Hannon drew a bases-loaded walk with one out in the bottom of the tenth inning, scoring sophomore Ryan Toscano.
Daily admission for the round-robin tournament is $10.