BRISTOL, Va. — Virginia High senior right-hander Jared Tate realizes he doesn’t have to strike out every batter he faces.
But his instincts may still require some convincing.
The Division I signee struck out 12 and the Bearcats rolled to a 12-3 win over J.J. Kelly in the opening round of the Region D baseball tournament at DeVault Field.
“My mentality, I try to strike everybody out. We have a great defense and I guess I shouldn’t,” Tate admitted. “When I try to make a guy hit the ball, that’s when I become a better pitcher.”
The Bearcats (16-8) advanced to face Honaker in Thursday’s Region D semifinals at Memorial Stadium in Coeburn.
Tate (6-1), who has signed as a pitcher with James Madison University, went for the throat from the outset Tuesday.
“He’s a good pitcher. He’s a good arm. He’s gotten to this point and is going to advance his career for a reason. He’s good,” said Kelly coach Chad Longworth.
Tate also walked five batters and hit one. And while he fanned eight of his first nine outs, that included a third inning that saw the Indians tie the game at 3 on three hits and a walk.
“Tate’s going to give me a heart attack,” Virginia High coach Mark Daniels half-joked.
Kelly first baseman Nick Sturgill, who went 2-for-3, lent a two-RBI double to that frame. Christian Kunce added an RBI single.
“They’ve got a couple guys on that team who can swing the bats. I was impressed,” Tate said. “I hung a curveball on (Sturgill) and he made me pay for it. I wish I’d thrown him a little better.”
Even so, Tate’s full-count brinkmanship gave the Bearcats two more no-hit shutout innings. He struck out Alex Maine to open the sixth and took leave of the mound after walking Graysen Hale, Tate’s fifth walk of the game.
Daniels sent out Tyler Arnett, whose sidearm delivery was a jarring contrast to Tate’s whipcracking overhand motion. Arnett collected the next five outs in order.
“Jared gets out there and competes and battles, and tonight I thought at times trying to overthrow a little bit,” said Daniels, who said Tate’s pitch count was at or near the red line in the fifth. “We told him one walk and he was done.
“And, yeah, I guess it is a drastic change going from over the top to underneath,” he added.
It was impressive how well that all worked out. But the gamesmanship proved almost superfluous after the Indians (19-5) imploded in the bottom of the fifth inning, giving up seven runs on three hits, four errors and four walks.
“We made errors. We kicked the ball around a bit. We didn’t work ahead and keep the momentum going. I thought we had them backpedaling a little bit and we just couldn’t capitalize. We just couldn’t knock them down,” Longworth said.
“You can’t win baseball games walking people and making errors. That stuff kills you.”
Kunce (8-3) dealt two of those fateful walks, with both baserunners scoring on Dylan Sullins’ triple against relief pitcher Alex Couch.
The Bearcats added two more runs in the sixth off a hit, an error, a plunk and a walk. Seth Davis, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI, led off with a double that inning.
Sullins went 2-for-2 with three RBIs and Tate collected an RBI double. Arnett added a sacrifice fly and Dakota Katelouzos had an RBI single.
“We tried to own the tempo offensively and defensively. We got to a point where we owned the tempo both ways. And we just couldn’t put them away,” Longworth said.