KINGSPORT — The hitting is improving with each passing day. So is the pitching.
But Gate City’s inability to make plays on defense keeps coming back to bite the Blue Devils.
John Battle plated six runs — two of them earned — on just three hits to beat Gate City 6-3 in Clinch Mountain District action on Tuesday night at Hunter Wright Stadium.
“Our pitching is coming along. We’re hitting the baseball. But we’re just giving runs away,” Gate City coach Robbie Perry said. “I don’t know what to say. Every time you look up there at that last column, there’s just too many errors. It’s frustrating.”
It was a tough pill to swallow for Gate City starter John Brooks (0-3), who was already trailing 4-2 when his no-hit bid was broken up in the top of the fifth inning. Cody Rogers nixed the no-hitter with a leadoff single to left in the fifth.
None of the first four runs Brooks gave up was earned. Battle relied on a fortuitous blend of Gate City errors, a handful of walks and daring baserunning to take control of the game.
“It was just playing the game and finding ways to manufacture runs,” Battle coach Keith Davis said. “That’s just playing the game. Those are the little things you’ve got to be able to do.”
Battle starter Matt Sullivan shook off a rough start to pick up his first victory of the season. The first three batters Sullivan faced reached got hits and Gate City led 2-1 after one inning thanks to an RBI double by J.T. Starnes and a run-scoring single from Hunter Wolfe.
But Sullivan (1-6) settled in and took care of business from there, giving up just one more unearned run and scattering three hits over his final six innings of work.
“Matt’s record doesn’t reflect how well he’s pitched all year,” Davis said. “He gets thrown in there against our toughest competition. There have been times that he has been hit around, but he’s one of those guys that continues to get better as the game goes on.
“He’s going to go out there and battle for you. He was able to settle in there and keep us in the ballgame.”
The Trojans (10-10, 5-3) tied the game at 2 by turning a fielding error, a passed ball, a stolen base and a groundout into a run in the top of the third inning.
The wheels really came off for the Blue Devils (2-16, 0-7) in the fourth frame. Gate City committed three errors in the inning and Battle jumped ahead to stay.
Starnes finished up with two doubles for the Blue Devils, who outhit Battle 6-3. Perry said his team pitched and hit well enough to win.
“I’m tickled to death with the way we hit,” Perry said. “If you take away those errors, we win that game 2-1. But we can’t give runs away and expect to win a ballgame.”
Seth Cunningham singled and drove in two runs for Battle. Raymond Luchini also drove in a run.
Time is running out for the Blue Devils to get it together before the postseason. Gate City faces Wise Central on Thursday night before returning home for a CMD showdown with Lee High at Hunter Wright Stadium on Friday.