MILLIGAN COLLEGE — Happy Valley's baseball revival is coinciding nicely with the improvements of pitcher Hunter Townsend.
The sophomore left-hander tossed a one-hitter, and the Warriors scored four unearned runs in a 4-0 victory in the opening round of the District 1-AA tournament Friday night at Anglin Field.
Happy Valley, which won just three games last season, improved to 16-13 and moved into today's winners' bracket semifinals against top-seeded Unicoi County (21-5) at 1 p.m.
Warriors' head coach Caleb Moore said winning a district game is a step in the right direction for the program.
“But we can't be happy with one win,” said Moore. “We've got to keep it going.”
The second semifinal will match second-seeded Elizabethton (22-10) against Sullivan East (18-10) at 3:30 p.m. The Patriots earned their spot with a 7-5 win over Johnson County.
Elizabethton has won 16 of its last 18 games while the Patriots have won 15 of 17.
In an elimination game today, Sullivan North will take on Johnson County at 6 p.m.
Townsend peppered the strike zone against the Raiders. He had a few three-ball counts, but did not walk a batter while striking out six.
He credited Warriors' assistant coach Ryan Gentry with helping him improve this season.
“He worked with me on my mechanics, getting my arm up and pulling it down to my waist,” said Townsend. “He's one of the best pitching instructors I've had. It's incredible how he's helped me so much. I have way more confidence than I had the first or second game of the season.”
The Warriors gave Townsend plenty of defensive support, making routine plays and some tougher ones.
“The infield and outfield play was the best I've ever had,” said Townsend, who carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning before Ryan Anderson's solid single.
North pitcher Will Henshaw didn't get the same help. An error put a runner on base in the second inning, and a two-out error on a routine grounder to shortstop allowed two runs to score.
Also, Sam Allie had an RBI single in the three-run second inning.
“If you put it in play, you have a chance in high school,” said Moore. “You put pressure on them to make mistakes. We didn't square up a lot of balls, but you can't be picky about how you score runs.”
Happy Valley added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth. Allie reached on an error, and scored on Joe Arnold's ground-ball single to center field. Arnold was the only player in the game with two hits.
Sullivan East 7, Johnson County 5
The Patriots appeared to leave little doubt with an explosive first inning, totaling five runs on four hits.
However, the Longhorns battled back and had the tying run on base in the seventh inning.
Sullivan East's Brady McGrew had a two-run bases-loaded single in the first inning. Spencer Nave followed with an RBI single and Will Ellis added an RBI double before Tanner Whittaker's sacrifice fly.
Trailing 6-0, Johnson County pushed across three runs in the fifth inning. Andy Woods had an RBI single, and John Vannoy hit an RBI double.
Trailing 7-3 in the seventh, Vannoy had an RBI single and Ryan Smith added an RBI groundout. However, Sullivan East relief pitcher Jordan Jackson retired Judd Hammons on a hard grounder to second base to end the game.
Daniel Helm and Vannoy each had two hits for the Longhorns (7-15) while Austin White and Ellis added two hits for the Patriots.