Kyler Pelfrey seems to be at his best when he's facing Bartow County rivals, then again the Adairsville senior has been outstanding regardless of who the Tigers have faced this year.
Having earned a win against Cass earlier in the season, Pelfrey improved to 2-0 against intracounty competition with a fantastic performance in a 3-1 home victory over Woodland on Thursday.
"Kyler did what Kyler does," Adairsville coach Billy Roper said. "He's done that for us for three years. This year, he's feeling good. Last year, he had some arm trouble early, and we weren't able to use him like this.
"Now, we know what we're going to get. We're going to get six or seven innings out of him. We need to get him some runs. We were fortunate enough to get him some runs early and let him get in a groove and go. He does what we expect him to do."
The Tigers (7-3) grabbed the early edge against Wildcats starter Kenny Jinks, who pitched a stellar game himself, with a run in the first inning.
Pelfrey, who recently moved back to the leadoff spot after hitting there last year, opened the game with a walk. Courtesy runner Wade Conduff advanced to second on a pitch in the dirt, and Hunter Hice drove him home with a double down the left field line.
It was the only earned run Jinks would allow. The left-hander struck out 10 over six innings, allowing the lone walk to Pelfrey and just three hits.
His defense let him down in the third inning, leading to two runs for the Tigers.
B.J. Roper reached on a throwing error, and Pelfrey drove him in with a key triple on the first pitch of his at bat. Conduff, running for the pitcher, scored on another Woodland error to give Adairsville a 3-0 lead.
"I knew the last inning, he started me with a fastball right down the middle, but we had a take, because it was the beginning [of the game]," Pelfrey said. "He did it again, so I just tried to put a good swing on it and it flew."
That gave Pelfrey, who struck out 14 Armuchee batters in six innings his last time out, more than enough breathing room.
He punched out nine Thursday, while also doing an excellent job of pitching to contact.
"We were trying to get them to hit groundballs, trust our defense," Pelfrey said. "That gives you a lot of confidence as a pitcher knowing you've got a good defense behind you to make those plays."
Hice, in particular, was phenomenal in the field, as Pelfrey needed just 83 pitches in his complete-game effort, which included no walks and two hits allowed.
"Hunter had by far his best game defensively," Roper said. "He's come out late from basketball. He's right now getting in his groove offensively and defensively. He made some big plays to take them out of key situations."
Despite Pelfrey cruising much of the evening, the Wildcats (6-6) still had chances to push across runs with three runners reaching third base. Woodland, though, only took advantage one of those times.
In the fourth inning, Chris Mills led off the frame with a single. He used heads up base running on a hit-and-run to go from first to third on a groundout to the third baseman, Hice.
Bailey Ward drove him in on a chopper up the middle that Pelfrey knocked down and wisely chose to take the out at first.
But the Wildcats' hitting woes, which had somewhat dissipated after a slow start to the season, reared its ugly head for the second time in three days.
Including Tuesday's 10-inning loss to Sonoraville, Woodland has just four hits in its last 17 innings.
"We're struggling hitting right now," Wildcats coach Colby Coursey said. "We're struggling to score runs, getting guys in. We're getting them in positions, but somebody's got to step up and score the guy.
"I think we had opportunities."
Sometimes, though, the pitching on the other side is just too good. That could certainly be the argument after Pelfrey once again showed why he's one of the top pitchers in the area.
Roper knew what he would get out of his ace, but the offense wasn't guaranteed to show up against a solid Jinks. But the fact the offense scratched across enough runs has the Adairsville coach confident with Region 6-AAA play starting next week.
"It's good to win the 10-0 games, but in our region, that's not going to happen," Roper said. "... You've got to win 3-1 games and only have four or five hits. The fact that you can have four or five hits and win a ballgame, that tells a lot about your team."