KINGSPORT — They came to see Kevin Connell but saw Heath Haden.
Sullivan South’s heady junior right-hander fired a three-hitter and issued only one walk Monday night in a 4-0 Big 8 Conference baseball win over Daniel Boone.
Haden, getting ahead in the count with his fastball and mixing in curves and changeups, dispatched the hard-hitting Trailblazers (10-16, 4-8) without incident.
He did not give up a hit until Hayden Chandley singled with one out in the fourth inning. The other two Boone hits were by Caleb Cochran in the fifth and Josh Starkey in the seventh.
Haden twice retired six batters in succession, struck out six and allowed just five baserunners. He plunked one batter with a pitched ball.
“I’m real proud of Heath,’’ South coach Anthony Richardson said. “He threw strikes and kept us in the game. If you have three different pitches in high school, you’ve got a good chance to win.
“Heath threw the ball well. We’re trying to find a No. 1 pitcher and it may be him.’’
With the District 1-AAA tournament approaching, every win counts big.
“One more win and we’ll be guaranteed the No. 5 seed,’’ said Richardson, whose team is 14-13, 5-7.
Connell, the losing pitcher, had a no-hit bid foiled in the fourth when Ryan Lockhart singled and stole second base. This ignited a four-run explosion.
Aaron St. Clair walked. Haden reached on a fielder’s choice, and the ball was thrown away. Ty Garvin’s grounder drove in a run and Tanner Smith ripped a two-run double to left field.
That’s all the undefeated Haden needed to make a stand for his fourth victory.
Connell, one of Northeast Tennessee’s premier hurlers, is 2-5 on the year. The fireballing left-hander exited the game in the fifth after his pitch count reached 113. He struck out nine batters in 4 1-3 innings.
“Kevin pitched well,’’ Boone coach Rob Hoover said. “Again, we failed to give him any run support. In the last four outings, we haven’t given him any help.
“Obviously, our minds were on something else tonight besides baseball.’’
South’s defense was nearly flawless. Third baseman Reid Mathews was particularly impressive.
“We made some plays,’’ Richardson said, “but we’re still leaving runners out there (on base).’’
Lockhart led South with two hits.
In their first meeting, South won 6-2 and pinned the loss on Connell.
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