KINGSPORT — In high school baseball, routine plays can be anything but. Especially when a team is as young as Sullivan North this season.
The Golden Raiders totaled as many hits as errors — nine each — in an 11-6 loss to Happy Valley in Three Rivers Conference play Wednesday evening.
North (2-15, 1-8) fielded a starting nine that included one senior, five juniors, a freshman and a pair of sophomores.
“The last two nights, we’ve fought and competed and come away with losses, but we’ve been in the game,” said Raiders coach Steve Dixon, whose team lost 13-11 to Elizabethton on Tuesday. “First of the year, we were getting killed. It wasn’t even close. Now, we’re giving ourselves a chance to win.”
After surrendering three runs before even coming to bat in the first inning, North was hanging around at 3-2 after one frame and 4-3 after two. The Warriors gained some breathing room in the next two innings, courtesy of Jake Miller’s towering two-run home run in the third inning and a two-out rally in the fourth sparked by one of North’s defensive miscues.
“We’re an extremely young team trying to compete in a senior-dominated conference. That’s not an excuse. That’s just a fact,” Dixon said.
“They had 14 hits, we make a bunch of errors, that could’ve been a blowout but we kept ourselves in the game because we fought and we competed. That’s going to pay off in the long run. We’re going to be good.”
Nick Jenkins was pretty good out of the No. 7 hole in the lineup for Happy Valley. He drove in four runs on a two-run triple and two-run homer. Five Warriors (6-9, 4-5) tallied multihit games to give winning pitcher Jake Hodge an abundance of run support.
Hodge (1-0) walked six, balked and threw a wild pitch but did notch eight strikeouts, including two in the seventh inning.
“In the sixth inning, he had run up to around 100 pitches and Jake’s not went that far before,” Happy Valley coach Gerald Jenkins said. “So we were warming up Jake Howell just in case.”
Dylan Price (0-5) took the loss for North, allowing 11 of Happy Valley’s 14 hits. However, three of the eight runs credited to Price were unearned because of errors.
Chris Gilliam finished up on the mound, and helped pace North at the plate with two knocks. Brett Jennings and Brandon Peters matched that hit total.
Meanwhile, Dixon continues to see progress from his team — even in the smallest and most unlikely of spots. In the top of the seventh, for example, North opened the frame with three errors that put men on the corners. However, a double play helped the Raiders hold Happy Valley scoreless — the only goose-egg put up in an individual inning by the Warriors all night.