Will Craig hit a ball so far Saturday that a postal worker had to return it.
The Science Hill senior hit a long home run in game one of the Hilltoppers’ doubleheader sweep against Murfreesboro Siegel at Cardinal Park.
Science Hill won the opener 9-3 and the nightcap 5-1, and Siegel failed to retire Craig in any of his eight plate appearances. The 6-foot-3, 212-pound Wake Forest signee was 5-for-5 with a double, three RBIs and three walks. One of the walks was intentional and another one, which came with a runner at first and two outs, might as well have been. Craig was walked on four straight pitches that were well out of the zone.
Such strategy’s understandable when seeing what Craig did to a 3-1 fastball, a blast that must’ve gone well in excess of 400 feet before landing in the Post Office parking lot.
Dating back to Wednesday’s 5-4 win against Dobyns-Bennett, Craig has reached base in 12 straight at-bats. He’s 7-for-7 with three doubles, five walks (two intentional) and the long home run, his second of the season. One of his doubles Saturday hit about 80 percent of the way up the 20-foot fence in left field.
“He’s as good a hitter as I’ve seen around,” Siegel coach Craig Reavis said. “Maybe the (Nicky) Delmonico kid a couple of years ago (at Farragut) might’ve been a little better hitter. But he’s as good as anybody around that I’ve seen with power and, you know, you just don’t fool him a lot. He doesn’t chase pitches out of the zone.”
Science Hill coach Ryan Edwards said Craig entered Saturday with an on-base percentage around .750 and a batting average of approximately .600.
“He didn’t go down any today,” Edwards said with a deadpan smile.
Craig’s performance overshadowed the quality starts of sophomore right-handers Landon Knack and Grant Rabbitts.
Knack (2-0), who missed his freshman season with a fractured arm, allowed two runs in five innings for the victory in the opener. He gave up three hits, including an infield single, and walked two.
Rabbitts, making his first varsity start, gave up one unearned run in six innings. He allowed five hits and two walks.
“I expect a lot of good starts to come down the road from those guys,” Edwards said. “I’m not surprised by their performance stuff wise, but I’m real pleased with their performance mentally, because that was his (Rabbitts’) first varsity start ever … and Landon, that was only his second. I’m real happy with where they’re at, because that’s really good ballclub that we just beat right there.”
Siegel (6-4) beat Science Hill in the Hilltoppers’ season opener last week.
Rabbitts has three saves and the win during Science Hill’s 7-2 start. Knack pitched six shutout innings while beating Shelbyville in his varsity debut.
“Landon’s thrown twice, and both times he’s pounded the zone and relied on his stuff,” Craig said. “And Rabbitts has a rubber arm. He can throw as much as he wants and never gets tired. If they can keep that up all year, we’ll be set.”
John Wynd pitched the final two innings of the opener for Science Hill, and Brad Carter worked a perfect seventh in game two.
“John did a good job of recovering and getting those couple of innings we needed,” Edwards said, “and then Brad just came right at ‘em right there.”
First baseman Kyle Ouellette was 2-for-4 with two doubles and a line-out in the nightcap, and center fielder Reed Hayes was 1-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. Hayes and Ouellette must provide Craig’s protection in the lineup.
“As long as Reed and Ouellette keep swinging the bats well, we’ll be fine,” Edwards said.
Shorstop Kyle Wilson and designated hitter David Bryant were each 1-for-3 with a walk in game two. Wilson made a difficult line-drive catch going to his left to retire Jay Melton leading off the second inning of the second game. Wilson and McPherson also smoothly turned a 6-4-3 double play on a ball hit by Melton, who was finally rewarded for a hard-hit ball with an RBI double in his final at-bat of the day.
Science Hill catcher Matthew Beaird was 1-for-2 with a bases-loaded walk and a run in the opener. Addison Adams also drove in a run when he was hit with a 3-2 pitch, which was the second time he was hit by a pitch in game one.
Wilson routinely handled a couple of difficult ground-ball chances in game one, and Hayes made a long, running catch in left-center field.
“Our hitters are starting to figure it out as far as hitting to all fields,” Edwards said, “and defensively, we’re just making some really good plays.”
Science Hill visits Sullivan South on Monday at 6 p.m.
Siegel’s Nick Kristinus was 3-for-3 with two doubles and was hit by a pitch in the first game, and he walked twice in three plate appearances in the nightcap.