The Hilltoppers had to slug it out for a season-opening, 12-8 win over Sullivan East on Tuesday. Sullivan South (2-1, 1-1) hung in there until the final out Wednesday night, losing 4-1 to the Hilltoppers.
“It’s going to be a great conference race,’’ South coach Anthony Richardson said. “Any time we can play against a team like Science Hill and stay close enough that we have a chance to win, I’ll take it.’’
Except for a few defensive miscues, South was pretty much on top of the situation.
“To be successful, you’ve got to make routine plays,’’ Richardson said, “and tonight we didn’t.’’
Science Hill (2-0, 2-0) sent two of its flame-throwers to the mound.
Starter Daniel Sharp allowed just two hits and struck out five batters in picking up the win. His fast ball was clocked at 84 mph. Reliever Daniel Norris surrendered one hit and had six punchouts. His fastest pitch was timed at 90 mph on one radar gun and 89 on another.
“I’m really excited at where our pitchers are right now,’’ Science Hill coach Ryan Edwards said. “They’re going after the hitters and keeping the walks down. They’re competing.’’
The Hilltoppers are 10 deep with their pitching staff. Edwards said he’ll likely settle on four starters and two relievers for the postseason.
With righthander Josh Campbell on the mound for South, the Hilltoppers paraded a row of lefthanded batters to the plate.
“At times this season we’ll have six or seven lefthanded batters in the lineup,’’ Edwards said. “(Campbell) was really tough on righthanders. Our lefties did the damage, pulling us out tonight.’’
All three of South’s hits went for extra bases. Heath Haden and Ty Garvin each doubled. Aaron St. Clair homered.
St. Clair cleared the left field fence in the sixth inning with a 340-foot solo shot off Norris, a sophomore lefthander who’s believed to have big-league potential.
“In my first two times at bat, I grounded out to the pitcher and shortstop,’’ the 6-foot-1, 180-pound St. Clair said. “I didn’t hit the right spot with either swing. On the homer, I got a solid lick on a 1-2 count. The pitch was waist-high on the inner half of the plate. I didn’t know when I made contact if the ball was going out. As I rounded first base, I saw it go over.’’
Science Hill capitalized on mistakes for all four of its runs. Singles by Corey McPherson and Lance Reed and an infield error accounted for the first score.
An errant throw during the execution of a double steal allowed Bo Del Gaicco to score after his double and Devon Muse’s single.
The third run was the result of a hit batsman. Muse stole second then raced home on a hit by Zach Thompson. The last run was scored by McPherson, who doubled and came in on an error.
“We may have been a little intimidated early in the game,’’ Richardson said, “but we’re a pretty loose group. We set a bad tone in the first inning by not turning a double play when we had the chance. Who knows what the outcome might have been if we had turned a double play.
“Campbell pitched well. He located the ball low and kept Science Hill’s batters off balance.’’
Richardson wasn’t surprised by St. Clair’s homer. “Aaron got a big hit for us Tuesday night against Tennessee High and came in here tonight with confidence.’’
Edwards removed Sharp from the mound after Ashton Zanoni walked to open the fifth inning. Sharp was still going strong.
“ I didn’t want to pull Daniel. He had reached 80 pitches,’’ Edwards said. “When he walked that guy, we were in territory where we hadn’t been before.’’
Reed and McPherson each collected two hits.
There was quite a differential in pitching-rich Science Hill’s first two game scores. “I like 4-1 much better than 12-8,’’ Edwards said.
South will play a doubleheader tonight against Happy Valley and Unaka in the Snowball Classic, beginning at 5 o’clock.