CONYERS - The Heritage baseball team completed the first half of Region 8-AAAA play with a perfect 12-0 record Monday, beating county rival Rockdale 5-1 at Danny Blue Field.
Junior pitcher Anthony Bazzani tossed a complete-game no-hitter while Tyler Austin, Joseph Lester and Travis Tarleton provided the key hits as the Patriots improved to 12-2 overall.
"Obviously, we had good pitching and played well defensively," Heritage coach Casey Teal said. "Most of our game notes were on me today, running us out of all those innings. But we're going to keep being aggressive (on the bases)."
Bazzani finished the game with 10 strikeouts and eight walks, including three intentional free passes to Rockdale's Buck Farmer.
But the junior hurler worked his way out of two potentially dangerous situations with an inning-ending bases-loaded strikeout in the third and an inning-ending double play in the sixth.
"He (Bazzani) was in a couple of holes that he actually dug himself out of," Teal said. "He was down 2-0 in one at-bat where we pitched out two straight times and he battled back to get that one. He did a very good job, I was pleased with him."
Rockdale starting pitcher Kevin Masters limited Heritage to just five hits, but three key hits did all the damage for the Patriots.
Heritage struck for four runs in the bottom of third off extra-base hits by Austin and Lester.
After Nick Matten led off with the frame with a walk, Austin connected for a home run to left field, putting the Patriots in front 2-0.
And then, after Ryan Jubran and Bazzani reached on walks with two outs, Lester tripled over the head of Rockdale right fielder Mitch Farmer, giving Heritage a 4-0 advantage.
With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, Austin was intentionally walked and the next batter, Tarleton, made the Bulldogs pay with an RBI double off the wall in center field.
For Rockdale (6-7, 5-7), the difference in the game was an all too familiar story so far this season - a lack of timely hits.
The Bulldogs stranded seven runners on base, including four in scoring position.
Rockdale pushed its only run across in the top of the sixth when Jay Shirley bounced into a fielder's choice at third after Bazzani walked the first three batters to start the inning. The Patriots escaped the jam with a double play.
The Bulldogs also left the bases loaded in the third when Bazzani struck Kevin Dawkins for the third out.
"We just didn't hit. When a kid pitches a no-hitter against you, it's kind of hard to win," Rockdale coach Casey Martin said. "We've just got to hit better. Overall, our team is not hitting. If and when our bats ever get hot, we're going to be, hopefully, a team to reckoned with. Until that happens, we're going to have to hold teams to very few runs."
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at email@example.com.