CARROLLTON, Georgia -- West Georgia Tech opened the 2016 baseball season at home on a sun-soaked Sunday afternoon with a doubleheader split against the junior varsity squad from LaGrange College.
The Golden Knights won Game 1, 14-1, before dropping Game 2, 2-1.
It was the first day of action for both squads, and WGTC head coach Todd Pratt emptied his lineup. Every player on the roster saw playing time.
His pitching rotation resembled that of an MLB All-Star game, with 12 WGTC pitchers pitching one complete inning over the 12 innings that were played in the doubleheader.
"Because of the weather we haven't had much on-the-field work in the preseason, so I decided to let everybody play and get warmed up," Pratt said. "Overall I'm pleased with our pitching. We had a great day offensively in the first game. We just didn't hit in the second game and a couple of mistakes in the field hurt us. This was a good start."
WGTC easily took Game 1, 14-1, behind a 12-run second inning.
WGTC took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Logan Tillem opened the inning with a single. A walk and a hit-batsman loaded the bases with no outs. Aaron Gonzalez singled to center, scoring two runs, and WGTC was in front 2-0.
WGTC scored 12 runs in the second inning, all with two outs. Josh Eidson singled home a run, then Gonzalez followed with another run-scoring single to make it 4-0. Later in the inning Jacob Olson hit a two-run double to give WGTC a 7-0 lead.
An Angelo Rivera single brought home the sixth run of the inning. A fielders choice and an error brought home two more runs before Eidson hit his second run-scoring single of the inning, which made it 11-0.
Gonzalez followed with a two-run single for this third RBI of the inning and Connor Wilson added a double, which drove in another run, giving WGTC a 14-0 lead. A strikeout ended the offensive onslaught.
WGTC pitching cruised the rest of the way, allowing just one run, a homer in the top of the 4th. The game ended in the fifth with West Georgia Tech ahead 14-1 by virtue of the mercy rule.
Gonzalez went 3 for 3 at the plate with 5 RBIs to lead the Golden Knights offensively. Eidson's two singles in the second inning gave him a 2 for 3 day with a pair of RBIs.
Every starter scored at least one run for West Georgia Tech, with Tillem and Tucker Breen scoring three runs each.
Pratt used five pitchers in the contest. Austin Goff got the start and was followed on the hill by Jake McKlinskey, Allen Chumley, Richard Triplet and Chase Meyer. Triplett and Meyer both had two strikeouts in their inning of work.
WGTC's bats weren't as potent in game two as the Panthers took the nightcap 2-1 to split the twin bill.
West Georgia Tech had five hits to just two for LaGrange College, but the Panthers took advantage of a pair of miscues by the Golden Knights to score their two runs.
The Panthers went ahead 1-0 on a two-out error in the second and added another run in the fourth on balk followed by a sacrifice fly, to make it a 2-0 game.
West Georgia Tech did not put forth a threat to score until the sixth. Down 2-0, the Knights opened the bottom of the inning with a double by Daniel Vargas. A groundout advanced Vargas to third. Then Adam Pedraza doubled to left field to make it a 2-1 game and put the tying run 180 feet from home plate. A lineout by Josh Eidson and a flyout from Aaron Gonzalez ended the threat and the game went to the seventh, and final, inning with LaGrange College still leading, 2-1.
The Golden Knights threatened again in the seventh. After a strikeout to start the inning, Tucker Breen drew a walk and advanced to second when Avery Roth was hit by a pitch. That put the tying run at second and the potential winning run at first with one out.
The Panthers got out of the jam with a double play to end the inning and the game.
Adam Pendraza led WGTC offensively, going 2 for 3 with an RBI. Adrian Martinez, Avery Roth and Daniel Vargas had one hit apiece.
Pratt again used one pitcher per inning in Game 2. Avery Smith got the start and struck out the side. Miles Dutton did the same in the second inning. Zachary Johnson had a pair of strikeouts in the third and Jack Ballou had a strikeout in the fourth. Matt Orange, Matt Bailey and Tyler Elkins all pitched scoreless innings for the Golden Knights.
West Georgia Tech pitching had nine strikeouts and just three walks in Game 2, and had 16 strikeouts and six walks over 12 innings in the two games combined.
West Georgia Tech's roster has 30 freshmen and four sophomores. Josh Eidson and Brandon Bone were the only two sophomores in the Game 1 starting lineup.
"We are a young team for sure, but we have a lot of talent out there," Pratt said. "It's going to take us some time to get some of these guys adjusted to this level of play, but you can already see that we have some special players. This will be a great group of men to coach and I'm excited to see how we develop over the course of the year."
The Golden Knights return to action next weekend with a three-game home series against Vincennes University, an NJCAA Division II program from Indiana.
WGTC and Vincennes will play a doubleheader next Saturday, starting at 1:05 p.m., with a single game on Sunday starting at12:35 p.m. Home games for West Georgia Tech baseball are played at the Central-Carroll High School baseball field in Carrollton.
Before taking on Vincennes, West Georgia Tech Baseball will host its annual "Knights Feast" preseason banquet Friday night at Sunset Hills Country Club in Carrollton.
This year's keynote speaker is MLB Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro, who is famously known for being perhaps the best knuckleball pitcher in history.
Tickets to the dinner are still available for $100 each, or $150 for the dinner plus a meet and greet autograph session with Niekro.