CONYERS - Tyler Austin's future in professional baseball is probably as a catcher. In the meantime, the Heritage phenom is doing just fine as the other half of the battery.
Austin had a no-hitter through 61/3 innings and settled for a one-hit shutout in the Patriots' 7-0 victory over Salem.
Cameron Gibson's one-out, infield single in the seventh, which grazed off Austin's glove, was the first base-runner Salem had after Logan Singleton reached on an error to start the fifth inning. Austin got out of that frame by striking out three consecutive hitters looking, part of a 10-strikeout performance on a night when the right-hander's fastball was unhittable.
"I felt great," said Austin. "Past few games (the fastball) hadn't been working for me. It was just on tonight, I guess."
"He took care of business and you have a good feel (for) what kind of game you're going to be in when he's out there," said Heritage coach Casey Teal, who notched career win No. 300. "He did a great job; he deserves it."
Heritage (17-6, 15-3 Region 8-AAAA) got to Salem starter John Muirhead immediately, picking up a run in the bottom of the first inning. Nick Woodward led off with an infield single, stole second and third, and scored on a wild pitch.
The Patriots added another run on a wild pitch in the fourth when Singleton couldn't smother Muirhead's breaking ball in the dirt and pinch-runner Billy Abbott scored to make it 2-0.
After Austin stranded Singleton at second in the fifth inning, a bizarre bottom of the fifth followed. Ryan Cochran reached on an error to start the inning and stole second, one of seven Heritage stolen bases.
Salem (13-12, 11-8) botched Kelvan Diaz's sacrifice bunt and a batter later couldn't make a play on Zane Barefield's suicide squeeze. Heritage took a 3-0 lead.
Woodward walked to load the bases and Salem right-fielder Cody Davis dropped Joseph Lester's fly ball, which scored two runs. First baseman Brandon Crumbley's relay throw struck home plate umpire Steven Whitley squarely on the nose, delaying the game nearly a half hour. Amazingly, Whitley continued as the base umpire.
"I'm fine," Whitley said afterwards.
The delay didn't help Muirhead, who surrendered Austin's sacrifice fly and Travis Tarleton's run-scoring double as the Patriots batted around and went up 7-0. Muirhead pitched a complete game and struck out six, allowing all seven runs, though just two were earned runs.
"We had some good at-bats; productive at-bats," said Teal. "I saw excitement that I hadn't seen (in the dugout); a different type of excitement. I was very pleased."
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at email@example.com