Temperatures were in the 30s when Loudon and Greenback took the field for the Loudon March Classic Thursday night at Bill Thompson Field. The game began at about 7:20 p.m. with the sun dropping beyond the horizon and taking with it the little warmth that was available.
Loudon pitcher Caleb Holt did not seem to notice as he pitched his second complete game of the young season, this time for a shutout. He struck out 11 batters in the process, lifting Loudon to a 10-0 win in six innings.
"When I'm on the mound I have one objective and that's to throw strikes," Holt said. "I feel like I executed my pitches, we played defense and hit the ball well. That's all you can ask for in a shutout like this. I'm just glad we got the win."
The senior's performance was no surprise to Loudon coach Bill Thompson, who knows what his pitcher is capable of.
"Caleb's been throwing all year," he said. "He hasn't quit throwing really for the whole year. He's in good shape to pitch and he did a great job."
Holt's patience at the plate also set the tone for the Loudon offense. He drew a walk to lead off the bottom of the first and stole his way to third, where he was singled home by Trent Elliott. Elliott made his way to second on defensive indifference as Jordan Belvin, who also reached on a walk, occupied third base.
A single up the middle by Ryan McNabb scored both Elliott and Belvin. McNabb scored on a sacrifice by catcher Cody Manis.
Stetson Jenkins led off the second inning for Greenback and was the first Cherokee to reach base, drawing a walk on four pitches. Holt came back with a strikeout before giving up his first hit to Justin Kuhn.
T.J. Kuhn, who was running for the catcher Jenkins, was picked off by Holt at second and the top of the inning came to an end with a strikeout of Tanner Hanley. Holt allowed just three more hits in the contest, two coming from Jenkins, and three walks over the last four innings of play.
"I was just trying to stay ahead the whole time," Holt said. "I just try to do my best every outing."
Holt, a predominantly fastball pitcher, was able to throw 60 percent of his pitches for strikes and threw a first pitch strike to 62.5 percent of the batters he faced. After the game, Holt said he felt his control could have been better and he threw too many pitches out of the strike zone.
As a team, Loudon walked nine times and picked up six hits. Greenback starter Dillan Jones left the game after four innings with six runs, four earned, allowed. He was replaced by Eric Anderson, who pitched one full inning before giving up the deciding run on a wild pitch in the sixth inning to end the game on the 10-run rule.
Greenback coach David Grissom said he was happy just to get in a game, having been rained out in a majority of games so far. Friday was scheduled to be the team's sixth of the season; instead it was the third.
"That's our third game," he said. "I know that's Loudon's fifth game and pretty much everybody else has played two or three more games than we have. It's very important because I saw improvement tonight from last night. Every time we get an opportunity to get on the field it's beneficial. The rainouts hurt us. Every time you can play it's going to help you."
The only negative for the Cherokees — in what is scheduled to be a busy weekend — is the team's lack of depth in the pitching staff.
"We're probably going to have to pitch some guys that wouldn't normally be starters and maybe get a few innings out of a few people that would rather not pitch but may have to," Grissom said.
For Loudon, the game marked its first at home this season, having started the season 2-2 at a tournament in McMinn County.
"It's always good to win at home," Thompson said "We want to win them all at home."
The Redskins played Friday and Saturday and will host another tournament, Loudon's April Fool's Day Classic, in one week.
"We just need to get our pitchers some work," Thompson said. "We just haven't been on the field enough with the cold and the rain. This will benefit our pitchers, plus our hitters, plus we have to work some things out at positions."