The pitching, however, seems to be coming along quite nicely.
Senior junkballer Chris Jones struck out 12 as the War Eagles picked up their first win of the season in a 9-2 non-district rout of visiting Appalachia on Tuesday.
While Rye Cove (1-2) had only five hits, Jones allowed only three.
“He can throw strikes,” said Rye Cove coach Terry Fields. “He’s not overpowering, but he keeps them off balance with his curve ball.”
Jones (1-2) gave up five walks, including a leadoff base on balls to Tanner Clark, who scored on Tyler Hall’s subsequent double. Hall went on to score Appalachia’s only other run on a fielding error.
Jones, who admitted he’s never bothered to have his heater clocked on radar, did most of his work Tuesday with a 12-6 curveball, a sinker and a very few circle changeups.
“I just reared back and hit my marks,” said Jones, who opened the game by striking out the side. “I threw the pitches coach told me to pitch and my defense had my back when they hit it.”
Jones let baserunners on in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, but never allowed the Bulldogs to push them across.
Jacob Arwood came on in the seventh for Rye Cove, retiring them in order, including one strikeout, to call it a night.
“(Jones’) arm wasn’t bothering him, but he’d pitched enough this early in the season and Arwood needed a little bit of work,” Fields said.
Dustin Hill led the Eagles’ lineup, going 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs. Chris Lane had an RBI double and a stolen base while Steven James and Adam Pearcy each collected doubles. Jones had a sacrifice fly and Blake Lawson had a sacrifice bunt and two stolen bases. First baseman Sammy Ervin scored after getting on with a walk, got an RBI groundout and stole a base after being hit by a pitch.
Appalachia’s Cody Boyd (1-1) struck out five and walked four, with only four of the eight runs charged against him earned thanks to three of the Bulldogs’ four total errors.
Boyd’s fate was pretty much sealed in the third, when the Eagles parlayed six runs out of three hits and two miscues plus a passed ball and a wild pitch.
Tyler Barker took over for the starter two outs into that disheartening frame, going on to pitch what ought to have been three shutout innings.
He was touched with an earned run after giving up a leadoff walk to Arwood in the third inning. That was thanks to the Bulldogs missing the bag at second while turning what would’ve otherwise gone down as a double play.
“I thought we made a lot of errors that kind of hurt us,” said Appalachia coach Mike Rhodes. “Once we got down, it just seemed to snowball. But take nothing away from Rye Cove. That kid pitched a really good ballgame, and they made the plays.”