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Bears rely on pitching, basepath savvy to win at Castlewood

March 22nd, 2014 12:41 am by George Thwaites

Bears rely on pitching, basepath savvy to win at Castlewood

CASTLEWOOD — Coach Brock Funk wasn't as much concerned about Castlewood's baseball team winning its opener as he was about getting his kids into a scrap with a good opponent.

And that's what he got.

Tommy Fleenor and Hunter Neece combined for 12 strikeouts, and Union shut out the Blue Devils 7-0 on Friday night.

Fleenor (1-0) picked up the win after five innings of work, striking out seven and walking two. He had a no-hitter going before Ian McCoy and Matthew Smith spoiled it with consecutive singles in the fourth.

Those were the only hits the Bears (2-0) allowed for the duration, however.

Neece, who came on in the sixth with Union leading 3-0, struck out five over the final two innings. Two Castlewood runners got on board in the sixth with a walk and a marginal foul call down the first base line that was reversed and scored as an error on the catcher. Neece walked one in the seventh.

"This is Tommy Fleenor's first year on the mound. He comes in and he's throwing strikes. " said Bears coach J.W. Salyers. "Hunter Neece comes in and closes the door. It was a tight game at the time. He did a phenomenal job."

Salyers was pleased that his own lineup was challenged by good pitching. Blue Devils southpaw ace Dakota Grizzel (0-1) served up four hitless innings out of his seven, striking out 10 and walking eight.

The Bears got three hits in the first, plating Ethan Villiard on a Neece single. Aggressive baserunning was the big factor for Union throughout. Villiard and Tanner Hall led the way with three stolen bases apiece.

Union had a stolen bag in the fourth, scoring two more runs on an infield single and an error.

Grizzel had a nice pick-off move, erasing the very first batter he let on board. But over the course of the game, cagey Bears baserunners eluded three rundown attempts, the last instance contributing a run to Union's four-run outburst in the seventh.

Grizzel was touched for three hits in that final frame, which saw three steals and runs scored on a passed ball and an error.

Prior to that, the plate umpire had collapsed at the backstop. After a worrisome 15-minute delay, he revived, dusted himself off and resumed calling the game.

"I think it may have taken (Grizzel's) mind off the game a little bit. You pitch your first game of the year and have something like that happen ... it would shake up anyone," Funk admitted.

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