Union County baseball standouts Jake Walton and Cal Arnold suited up in matching uniforms for two final games in Myrtle Beach this past weekend, having been selected to the North/South All Star team in recognition of their consistent, outstanding play throughout the Yellow Jackets season.
The pair participated on the 2A, 3A team and helped the North to a 2-1 win over 1A, 4A South on Friday night with a cheering section of approximately 30 Yellow Jackets supporters looking on.
“We brought a good crowd with us,” said Arnold. “I was happy to see so many people come support us. It was a good experience, to get to play with some of the best athletes in the state. Some of them we’d seen and played against our entire high school career, so to play on the same team with them was pretty great.”
For Walton and Arnold, it was also a little bit about moving on.
The duo played a large part in getting Union County to the Upper State championship and when pitchers became scarce for the Jackets, Walton, a middle infielder, even stepped up to fill the position. However, the season came to an abrupt halt at the hands of Fort Mill and the seniors took it especially hard.
Walton, who will further his career at Spartanburg Methodist College, said the team was disappointed upon elimination from the playoffs.
“We wanted to go back to State and felt pretty good about our chances,” he said.
But it wasn’t in the cards, so when Walton and Arnold came off the field together on Saturday, it was for the last time as teammates.
But before the former Jackets closed out their high school careers for good, they represented Union County with some impressive baseball at the beach.
On Friday, Walton blasted a shot into left field for the North’s first hit of the game and also scored one of the team’s two runs as a pinch runner in a later inning.
Arnold started the game as a designated hitter and reached once on a fielder’s choice and once on a walk. After five innings, coaches for the North sent Arnold to left field where, despite never having played the position, he held his own with no errors and a put out.
Walton, who was positioned at second base and shortstop over the course of the weekend played his typical stellar defense with no errors and four put outs.
On Saturday, Arnold found himself in a familiar position, behind the plate.
“I don’t think they tried to steal on him but maybe once,” said Walton. “He didn’t even get the chance to throw anybody out.”
Both Friday and Saturday’s games were defensive battles and, ironically, ended in identical fashion, only with a different winner.With the two at a stalemate in extra innings, the international rule was enforced to automatically put a runner on second base. Friday night, it was the North who emerged victorious, but on Saturday, the South escaped with a 5-4 win after nine innings.
While Walton and Arnold would have liked to end the weekend with a second win, both agreed that the experience of playing in an All Star game was what was most important.
“I’m just grateful for the opportunity,” said Walton. Its something we’ll never forget.”
*See additional photos from the North/South game included with this article on our website at www.uniondailytimes.com.