Friday night at Buster Taylor Field, the shifts on the hill worked out well for Wise Central.
After Union exploited two Warriors errors to score three runs in the first inning, three pitchers confined the Bears to one additional run while the Central lineup put together a 7-4 Lonesome Pine District victory.
“They’ve kind of picked this as a rivalry game. I don’t see it as a rivalry game. But the crowds do and the communities still get fired up,” said Central coach Brian Mills, who played at J.J. Kelly and, prior to consolidation, coached at Pound. Middle reliever Nate Thompson (1-1) picked up the win for the Warriors (4-1, 1-0). He struck out six over his four innings, walking four — one intentionally.
Thompson came on for starter Ryan Mullins with no one out and two runners on in the third inning. Because Thompson pitched through the sixth, the VHSL’s new rest requirements will apply to him.
According to the new rule, if a pitcher throws four to seven innings in one day, he must have two calendar days of rest from competition pitching beginning with the day following the first day a pitch is thrown. One pitch is all it takes to burn an inning.
After two days’ rest, a pitcher may throw a maximum of two innings. After three days of rest, he may pitch a maximum of three innings. After four days’ rest, a pitcher may pitch to the limit of the rule.
Throwing more than seven innings incurs more mandated rest. A kid can go a maximum of nine innings in one day but no more than 14 over a seven-day period. In the past, a pitcher could throw 10 innings on two consecutive days.
Mills figures the Warriors have about four arms of relatively equal ability. Under the new regime, this is a good thing.
“I’ve been platooning them every game. We start out with Ryan, he goes two or three innings. We bring Nate in, he goes two or three innings. Then we bring a third guy in to finish the game. We’ve done that every game. When we get to tournament time, that’s pretty much how we’re going to play it,” said Mills, who sent out southpaw Jake Flanary in the seventh to retire the Union batters in order for his first save of the season.
For the complete game story, which includes a rundown on Central's offensive exploits, see the Sports section in Saturday's Times-News.