Will Craig isn’t carrying Science Hill baseball, but he seemingly gives it a lift every chance he gets.
Craig went 3-for-3 with a home run and pitched a complete game in Science Hill’s 5-2 win against Sullivan South on Tuesday at Cardinal Park.
Science Hill improved to 9-0 in the Big Eight Conference and 20-4 overall.
South (7-4, 16-9) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third, but Craig stranded two runners by striking out cleanup batter Matt Williams looking at an offspeed offering on the 31st pitch of the inning.
Craig then tied the score in the bottom of the third with a one-out home run he lined over the right-center field wall. It ignited a three-run frame for the Hilltoppers, and Craig found a groove on the mound.
“I guess that home run kind of sparked my adrenaline (on the mound),” Craig said. “It was a fastball away. It was a little up, but it was still a good pitch. He was throwing offspeed, offspeed, and when I saw the first fastball I hit it.”
All three of Craig’s hits were lined hard. The 6-foot-3, 212-pound Wake Forest signee is hitting better than .600.
“He’s really been locked in and he’s not missing anything,” Science Hill coach Ryan Edwards said.
The home run was his seventh of the season and 35th in a career spent playing home games in a professional ballpark.
“Shoot, he’s the best hitter around,” Rebels coach Anthony Richardson said. “I mean, you can’t get him out. He won’t see too many more pitches from us.
“I thought he threw better after he hit that home run, too. It pumped him a little bit. He’s a great hitter, and he showed it.”
Craig, who can throw 90-plus mph, allowed six hits, walked two and struck out nine.
“We’ve got a good club and we’ve been hitting it pretty good,” Richardson said. “And he kept us pretty much in check. He made some good pitches. He was hitting spots.”
Craig also got a break. Andrew Copas was called out at the plate for the third out in the top of the fifth while trying to score on a pitch that bounced to the backstop. Catcher Connell Boyle retrieved the ball quickly and his toss to Craig was in time, but it appeared Copas might’ve gotten a hand across the plate before the tag on a close play.
It would’ve made the score 4-3 with a runner at third. Instead, Craig led off the bottom of the fifth with a single, which led to an Addison Adams RBI fielder’s choice that gave the Hilltoppers a 5-2 lead.
“If we get that one call at the plate I think it’s a totally different game,” Richardson said. “My guy thought he was safe. The guy on deck thought he was safe. ...
“But that didn’t cost us the game. It would’ve been interesting to see what happened if we do get that run in.”
Adams finished 1-for-2 with two RBIs and a run. The switch hitter hit an RBI double to right-center field off left-hander Jamin McCann to cap a three-run third which gave Science Hill a 4-1 lead. Adams was hit by a pitch and scored the game’s first run on Boyle’s ground-out in the second.
Designated hitter David Bryant was 2-for-3 with a run. His RBI triple to right-center scored Reed Hayes in the third.
“(Bryant) is really picking us up right now,” Edwards said. “We just recently put him in there and yesterday he had a home run and a double (in a win against Volunteer), and today he had some big hits.”
McCann went the distance for South. He struck out seven in six innings while allowing 10 hits, four earned runs and no walks.
“I feel like he has a really good arm, so we’re getting better,” Edwards said. “The thing psychologically ... that we can carry (forward) is that we hit a good lefty today.”
Williams, a catcher who has eight home runs this season, was 2-for-3 with a double for South. Copas and Preston Douglas each had an RBI single.
Craig finished strong while improving to 4-1. He retired the last six in order, including three via strikeout. The run he allowed in the fifth came thanks to a leadoff infield single.
“I thought Will pitched a good game against a really good lineup,” Edwards said. “They battled and battled. I told coach Richardson that he’s got a really good club, which I already knew that going in. ... Really, Will had as good a stuff tonight as he’s had all year.”
Science Hill visits Daniel Boone today at 6 p.m. Sullivan South plays Gate City at Hunter Wright Stadium at 7 p.m.