KINGSPORT — Confining pitchers to no more than three innings per shift is one way many Southwest Virginia coaches are conserving their rotations under the VHSL’s stricter limits this season.
Sometimes, seven innings can be as economical as three.
Union’s Hunter Neece struck out eight Gate City batters over seven innings and the Bears collected a 4-3 non-district win at Hunter Wright Stadium on Monday night.
“We have four games this week. With these new pitching regulations, that was huge. That meant maybe two other pitchers we didn’t have to use tonight. We can save them for later in the week,” said Bears coach J.W. Salyers.
Whether it’s used on a given day, the stamina for seven or more frames remains a desirable pitching trait. Monday marked the first complete game of the season for Neece (4-1).
After collecting his last two strikeouts when he retired the side in the sixth, the 6-foot-3 junior shifted his focus in the seventh to equal effect.
Gate City’s Blake Hillman led off with a hot grounder to the mound. Neece robbed him of a hit with a great snag and coolly made the putout throw to first.
“That was just instinct. Whenever I can get it, I’m going to go for it,” said Neece, who allowed five Gate City hits and only one earned run.
Gate City leadoff man Chandler Pendleton popped out to Tommy Fleenor at second. Cory Franklin grounded to first baseman Rhett Lunsford, and Neece beat him to the bag for the 3-1 putout to seal the win.
For the complete story, pick up a copy of the April 16 Times-News.