ASSUMPTION -- Through the first couple weeks of the season, Central A&M whipped together some exciting endings to win five straight.
Altamont, and especially starter Kaleb Whitt, snatched that magic away on Saturday.
The Indians junior was dealing on the mound in the first game of the doubleheader with A&M, striking out 10 to power a 10-0 win.
"That was the best pitcher we've seen this year," A&M coach Chad Carroll said.
Whitt returns with the best bat on the team, but it was his arm that was the most valuable Saturday. He allowed just two hits and only walked one through a wildly windy six innings.
"He looked stronger today, looked like he had more velocity," Altamont coach and Kaleb's dad Alan Whitt said. "Had good control of his curveball and started getting some of his secondary pitches down -- he looked pretty good."
Altamont carried that momentum into the second game as Jacob Hammer, Kevin Miller and Jake Finn combined to allow one earned run in the second game where Altamont won 7-3.
But as solid as the performances from the mound were, the 17 runs scored on the day was particularly encouraging. After picking up a couple runs every other inning or so in the first game, the second game was buoyed with a massive fifth inning where the Indians plated six.
In the last two games, Altamont scored two total runs.
Part of that is youth, part is unwinding from playing bigger teams like Newton and Effingham.
"I think this is what we're going to be all year," coach Whitt said. "We're young in a lot of spots. Some days we're going to beat teams we're not supposed to, some days we're going to lose to teams we should beat."
That could change depending on how quickly some of the younger players find some consistency. There were several underclassmen that impressed Whitt.
There's sophomore Alek Biggs who wields one of the better gloves on the team, and who starts at center and shortstop: "He's stepped up, had some good results at the plate and he's going to be our No. 3 pitcher."
Sophomore Jacob Robbins is hitting .357 in the early going: "He hit the snot out of the ball. And we've been waiting for that."
And there's a freshman backing up Kaleb Whitt behind the plate in Noah Teasley: "And he had two big hits in that first game.
"The young guys are starting to get it, hopefully."
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A&M fell on the wrong side of both games, but the Raiders have their own reload process to sort out. That is stressed on the mound after losing key pitching.
But with the regional title and 28 wins last year, the standards are set a little higher for A&M.
"I expect us to compete with any 1A team out there," Carroll said. "I don't think we did that for 14 innings today. We had our moments, but I expect us to be in it with 1A teams."
Wizard at short
With a ball hit sharply to his right, Keaton Garner stuck it before firing sharply to first for an impressive out.
It's a play Carroll has seen Garner make plenty of times at shortstop -- he's been playing there for four years. But now a senior, there's added weight to the role Garner has on the team.
"He's a great leader. He understands the game -- he's been our shortstop for four years, so he obviously knows what he's doing out there," Carroll said. "He's grown every year he's been out there and grown into the position. He still makes some mistakes, but he makes some spectacular plays that not a lot of kids make.
"Sometimes you think he has no chance and he pulls it out of nowhere. And I like having him at the top of the order, he knows how to take pitches. He's just fantastic for us."
Hitting leadoff in the first game, Caden Miller went 2-for-2 with two walks.
Miller returns as one of the best pitchers in the area. He pitched 48 1/3 innings with a 0.87 ERA, and Whitt said he's worked on his command and velocity in the offseason. The added pop of the bat is a bonus.
"His bat's coming around," he said. "He struggled in the fall, but so far this spring his on-base percentage is really high.
"For us, he's our No. 1 and he got on the velocity this winter. I've had him on my radar gun at 83, 84. Not consistently, but I've seen it out of him. And it was 77, 78 last year."
Central A&M turned not one, but two 1-2-3 double plays to end innings in the second game, bailing the Raiders out of bases loaded jams in the fourth and sixth.