KINGSPORT — The day started wrong for homestanding Sullivan North and immediately got worse.
Letcher County’s Tanner Sexton hit the first pitch of the game out of the park Saturday for a 1-0 lead and a five-run second inning propelled his team to a 9-6 baseball win over Sullivan North.
After five hits by the Kentucky team, two errors and a hit batsman extended the score to 6-0 in the second frame, Golden Raiders coach Steve Dixon considered checking his horoscope to see if things might get better.
North did improve as the day went on. The Raiders bounced back with an opportunity to win against Letcher County (12-5). Then, after falling three runs short at the end, they traveled to J. Fred Johnson Stadium and made a competitive game of it against Knox West in a 4-0 loss.
“We came out flat against North,’’ Letcher County coach Bryan Dean said. “We got the early lead and sort of floated around. These guys were disappointed after losing to Dobyns-Bennett the way they did on Friday night.’’
North came back with a big inning of its own, scoring four runs in the third — a rally highlighted by Brandon Peters’ two-run single.
North outhit the Cougars 14-9 but stranded 13 baserunners. The Raiders saw scoring opportunities fall by the wayside in the second, fourth and sixth innings.
North (2-17) has gradually stepped up its play since the season’s outset, with eight of nine starters being underclassmen.
“We played really well today except for that one inning against Letcher County,’’ Dixon said. “We’ve come miles since the first of the year. We’re going to be a good team.
“We lost two players to injury on Wednesday after losing two on opening day. We went from young to younger.’’
In the sixth, North, trailing 8-6, had the bases loaded after scoring twice. Peters hit a line shot to third baseman Jordan Short, who turned it into an inning-ending double play.
“That was a game we could have won,’’ Dixon said. “We had a terrible second inning. We’re not giving up. We’re in games now.’’
Chris Gilliam, making his first start of the season, pitched impressively in the game against West (13-9). North simply did not give him any scoring support.
“Any Class AAA team from Knoxville is going to be good,’’ Dixon said. “Chris threw well against (the Rebels).’’
North managed just four hits off West pitcher Max Valenti (3-0) but got six runners on base.
West, in a preliminary game at the stadium, had stormed from behind to beat Dobyns-Bennett 5-2 on a grand slam by Will Chesney.
Two walks and an error set the table for Chesney, whose homer to right field came on a 2-2 count.
Sean Seabolt struck out seven batters in five innings of work for D-B (16-5).
“We didn’t hit quite as well against North as we did against D-B,’’ West coach Jeff Wright said, “but we played really good defense. That’s kept us in a lot of games.
“Valenti, our everyday shortstop, isn’t in the pitching rotation. But he keeps the ball around the plate, makes batters put it in play and doesn’t walk many people.’’
He walked nobody and retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced.