CONYERS - Before the lightning came, Friday night was all about Brandon Ward.
The Rockdale right-hander tossed a five-inning no-hitter in a 10-0 win over Duluth in game one, and the two teams battled to a 2-2 tie before lightning suspended the nightcap until June 30, when Duluth returns to Henson-Carr Field.
Ward dazzled in the opener, striking out nine and walking one in a 63-pitch gem.
With two outs in the second inning, Duluth starter Aaron Parks, who surrendered 12 hits and nine earned runs in three innings and took the loss, reached on an error and Austin Parks followed with a walk. But Ward caught Jeffery Lanier looking to end the frame, then retired the final nine batters he faced.
"(Ward) pitched a hell of a game," Rockdale coach Jack Murphy said. "Brandon was throwing strikes and getting outs. I can't say enough about the kid; he's pitched better than anyone on the team."
The Rockdale bats got Ward a big lead early, sending 11 to the plate and scoring in a variety of ways in the bottom of the first. Josh Flippen and Joseph Lester had RBI-singles to start the scoring; Micah Jones scored on a wild pitch, while Jake Parker scampered home on a passed ball. Later in the inning, Kale Blackshear and Marcus Smith added run-scoring singles to put Rockdale up 6-0.
Rockdale added four runs in the third when Blackshear ripped a two-run single and Cris Jackson followed with an RBI-double that missed leaving the park by a foot.
"That first game, everything we wanted to do offensively (they did)," Murphy said.
Duluth took a quick lead in the nightcap off Rockdale starter Micah Jones, scoring two unearned runs in the first inning. But after Alan Stanford scored on a errant throw to first and Tim Scott scored on a double steal to make it 2-0, Jones didn't allow a hit in his final 41/3 innings.
Rockdale tied it in the bottom of the first when Lester scored on a wild pitch and Parker ripped a tying single.
Duluth starter Joseph Tuohy pitched effectively, allowing two hits and hitting a batter after the two-run first.
Jones ran into trouble in the fifth inning, loading the bases with one out before striking out Scott and getting Justin Bowen on a ground out to the end the inning. Then the lightning came, suspending the game until Duluth's next visit to Conyers.
"You can't take a chance on some kid getting electrocuted," Murphy said.
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.