By Al Muskewitz, East Alabama Sports Today
PIEDMONT — Jadon Calhoun struck out the side in order in the first inning on 11 straight strikes. He punched them out in order in the second on 14 pitches.
Saks got to him, eventually, but not until it was too late.
The senior right-handed was as good as could be for 6 1/3 innings Friday night, pitching the second-ranked Bulldogs to an eventual 9-5 win in the first game of their Class 3A playoff doubleheader.
Not to be undone, Noah Reedy threw hard for six innings in the nightcap and threw a combined five-hit shutout 11-0 to complete the sweep.
The Bulldogs (29-4) will play either Elkmont or Sylvania in Round 2. Those teams split a pair of 8-3 games and will play for the series weather permitting Saturday.
“With the exception of one inning our pitching was outstanding all night,” Piedmont coach Matt Deerman said.
How sharp was Calhoun? He came within two foul balls of an immaculate inning in the first. He threw 23 of his first 25 pitches and 27 of his first 30 for strikes.
He struck out 13 and faced only two batters over the minimum through 6 1/3 innings. He didn’t allow a ball to the outfield until the fourth.
“That’s the first game I’ve actually filled up the zone that well,” Calhoun said. “We went the whole day and were high on energy because it’s the first round of the playoffs. I kind of built off that.”
But just like a white-hot meteor that enters the atmosphere, he flamed out in the sixth that he entered with a 9-0 lead.
He got the first out on another strikeout, then Saks got the next five batters on base. Coach Deerman went after him after a bases-loaded walk.
Reliever Cassius Fairs walked the first two batters he faced forcing in runs and another scored on a bad pickoff at third. Calhoun was charged with all five runs that spoiled an otherwise brilliant performance.
“I got a little tired,” he said.
Before Saks rallied the Bulldogs were dangerously close to walking it off in the bottom of the fifth.
They loaded the bases with one out and had the walk-off run at second, but Jeremy Waters relieved starter Mason Jairrels, gave up a sacrifice fly to make it 9-0 and nothing more the rest of the game.
Reedy was just as efficient early as well. He struck out the side in the first and second innings. At one point he struck out six in a row and all his outs in the first 2 1/3 came via punch outs.
He struck out 11 before yielding to Austin Estes in the seventh.