Prep Baseball Report

Ard, Chandler Lead No. 7 North Oconee Past No. 4 Starr's Mill

Phil Kerber
Georgia Scouting Director

Fayetteville, GA
- On Wednesday, February 24th, No. 7 North Oconee travelled to No. 4 Starr’s Mill for a showdown of two top-10 ranked teams and two of the top draft prospects in the state, RHP/SS Bubba Chandler (North Oconee; Clemson) and OF Thad Ector (Starr’s Mill; South Carolina). As expected, the game drew a large crowd of MLB scouts.

North Oconee seized the lead on the first pitch of the game as Chandler sent the ball flying out of the park in a hurry, banging it off the building behind the left field fence. The Titans were not done there with. Two batters later, 1B Phillip Ard (North Oconee, 2021) roped one down the left field line for a double. With two two outs in the inning, C Cale Stricklin (North Oconee, 2023) drove a pitch into the gap, driving in Ard for an RBI double. Stricklin would eventually advanced to third and score on two wild pitches, making it 3-0 after the top of the first

Given a three run cushion, Chandler toed the rubber in the bottom of the first. Right out the game, we were treated with the matchup that everyone was there to see, Chandler v Ector. Chandler came out 94-95 mph with his fastball and won the first meeting, with a groundout to himself. His velocity continued to tick up throughout inning, hitting 96 and 97 mph multiple times. He also showed a solid 11/5 breaking ball that came in at 77-79 and a changeup at 85-86. Chandler did walk the second batter, but showed a great pick off move to clear the bases.

The second inning was a different story for the Panthers offense. OF/RHP Chay Yeager (Starr’s Mill; Wofford) led the inning off with a double down the left field line. Then, a bunt single by 2B Orlando Angulo (Starr’s Mill, 2021) and all of a sudden Starr’s Mill was threatening. Up stepped OF Ryder Wagenknecht (Starr’s Mill; Flagler). Wagenknecht battled at the plate. He fouled off multiple pitches before slapping a single through the middle of the infield, scoring two runs. Chandler was able to buckle down, striking out the next two, but he hit the third batter. This turned the lineup over for Ector with two men on, two men out. However, it was Chandler again who won the battle, getting Ector to groundout to first. But Starr’s Mill had cut the lead to 3-2 after two innings.

The one run deficit would be short lived. Chandler led the inning off with his second hit of the game, a hustle double. A hit that would be a single for most batters, was turned into a double by Chandler who was thinking two the entire way. Two batters later, it was Ard’s turn to make some noise. The right-handed hitter got a hold of one and sent it sailing over the left-center fence for a two-run home run, giving the Titans a 5-2 lead.

Starr’s Mill looked to be threatening again in the bottom of the third. DH Sean White (Starr’s Mill; Georgia Southern) got things going with one out walk. Yeager kept it going as he followed with a single up the middle, his second hit of the game. However, Chandler got out of the jam by turning the unconventional 1-5-3 double play.

While leading the offense, Yeager came out of the bullpen in relief of starter LHP Declan Dun (Starr’s Mill; Georgia Southern) to begin the fourth inning. The right-hander was very impressive in his first inning of relief. He sat 89-90 with his fastball and was carving batters up with a sharp 12/6 breaking ball at 78-79. He made quick work of the Titans, striking out two and getting a groundout to short.

Once again the Panthers looked to be ready to strike back in the fourth inning. Two singles, an error, and the bases were loaded with one out for Ector. Chandler seemed to thrive in the big moments. He focused in and got Ector to strike out swinging and SS Josh Tate (Starr's Mill; Georgia) to go down looking. Chandler exited the game following his fourth inning on the mound. His final line was: 4.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 6 K, 3 BB.

LHP Joe Waddell (North Oconee, 2021) entered in relief to bridge the gap to the closer. Waddell made quick work of the first two batters, before running into a little trouble. He allowed the next two batters on, but got out of it with a groundout. Waddell worked 81-84 and offered up a big slurve at 66-69.

North Oconee capitalized in the fifth inning off Yeager, as the first five batters of the inning reached safely. Once again, it was Ard who came up with the big hit for the Titans. He lined one into left field with the bases loaded, scoring two runs and adding to his totals of the day, with three hits and four RBIs.

The Titans made it 8-2 in the seventh with an extra insurance run, before handing the ball over to closer C/RHP Gavin Black (North Oconee, 2022). Things got a little interesting in the inning. Black fanned the first batter, but White followed up with a double into the right center gap. Yaeger then walked and it was first and second with one out. Black was able to get the next batter to chase a high fastball for the strikeout, and the Titans were one out away. Another walk loaded the bases, but Black came back and got the next batter to fly out to right field. Securing the 8-2 win. Black worked 85-87 with a swing and miss 12/6 curveball.

No. 4 Starr’s Mill was back in action yesterday when they hosted Hillgrove and McEachern for a double header. The Panthers dropped both games, losing to Hillgrove 11-0 and McEachern 3-2. No. 7 North Oconee travels to Richmond Hill to take on Jeff Davis and Richmond Hill on Saturday.

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