When North Georgia outfielder Kal Dempsey entered the batter’s box in the bottom of the third inning, the chorus of his walkout song “Dead or Alive” by Jazz Cartier playing in the background, the Nighthawks were energetic, but calm. They held a 6-0 lead thanks to a first inning grand slam by Steven Tomlinson and a two-run blast off the bat of the previous batter, Conner Corbitt, moments earlier.
Two pitches later, emotions were strained.
With a first-pitch fastball behind Dempsey’s head, the second-pitch hitting his shoulder, inches from his face, Dempsey ironically embodied a line from the first verse of his designated song.
“They’ve just been after my head”
The umpire issued a warning to the Augusta side as Dempsey threw his bat and took the free base.
“I was not happy at all, there’s no place for it,” head coach Tom Cantrell said of the pitch after the game.
After a few words with the opposing coach and the umpires, Cantrell gathered his team to regroup, similar to a line later in the first verse of Cartier’s “Dead or Alive”: “Don’t you react, this’ll get you a [four game suspension].”
“What I was trying to do was tell them, even though I wasn’t happy about it, we just need to concentrate on finishing the game and not worry about something we can’t do anything about,” Cantrell said. The team’s response was sportsmanlike, letting their play do the talking as they held the Jaguars scoreless, completing the weekend sweep with a 7-0 victory.
“I’m glad things didn’t get out of hand, but I was just trying to keep my team focused at that point, and they did a good job.”
Nighthawk’s pitcher Dylan Peppers tossed eight shutout innings, struck out eight batters and only allowed four of the 27 batters he faced to reach base as the Nighthawks pitching staff produced its second consecutive shutout and the team’s 11th consecutive win.
“I’m really excited about [Steven] Bower, [Daniel] McCrary and then Peppers getting back in the saddle again today, I mean what can you say about those three guys starting pitching-wise what they did,” Cantrell said. “It makes the game a lot easier, so I’m real happy about that, they’ve grown up and they’re starting to get it.”
Peppers also referenced the maturation process of the team’s pitching staff this season.
“I think we’ve grown up and some young guys have stepped up, Bower did really well starting and going out and throwing well a whole game, and yesterday was a tough day for Dan and he did well too,” he said. “By today we had a pretty good feel for their offense so we kind of just held them down.”
UNG held the Jaguars of Augusta University to just one earned run over the three game series, while combining for 21 strikeouts, including eight from Peppers Sunday, which tied the season-high for the Nighthawks.
The third inning home run by Corbitt gave the Nighthawks their 44th home run of the season, which is the most of any team in the Peach Belt Conference. The game was North Georgia’s 13th multi-home run game of the season.
Michael Gouge extended his hit-streak to nine consecutive games with an infield single in the fourth inning. Gouge is batting a team best .443 which is the third best batting average in the Peach Belt.
The Nighthawks will look to keep their momentum and extend their win-streak to 12 today against the University of West Georgia in Dahlonega.
“Honestly as long as our hitters keep swinging it we’ll have plenty of momentum,” Peppers said. “We got a really good hitting team this year and now the pitching is starting to catch up, we should be pretty good for the rest of the year.”