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Hilltoppers among favorites in Big Seven baseball

March 18th, 2014 10:06 pm by Jeff Birchfield

Hilltoppers among favorites in Big Seven baseball

The Big Seven Conference coaches see Dobyns-Bennett and Science Hill as the top teams early on, while the rest of the league appears to be wide-open.

Science Hill, which defeated David Crockett 9-6 on Tuesday night at Cardinal Park, boasts a trio of outstanding pitchers with senior Daniel Sweeney and juniors Landon Knack and Grant Rabbitts.

All three saw action against the Pioneers.

Knack got the start and gave up two runs, five hits and no walks in four innings. Sweeney, who is signed with ETSU, came in the fifth, and gave up a three-run home run to John Long, but buckled down to strike out three of the next four batters he faced. Rabbitts took over in the sixth and recorded the save.

The Hilltoppers have the luxury of several arms in the bullpen. Matthew Beaird, Nick Bernardi, Brad Carter, Reece Westmoreland and Garren Jackson give them a formidable bullpen.

However, it was at the plate where Science Hill (3-3) thrived Tuesday. 

Left fielder Addison Adams reached base four times, with a double and a RBI single to go along with a pair of walks. Knack aided his cause by going 2-for-3, while Jordan Holly was 2-for-4 as the ’Toppers pounded out 13 hits overall.

“I was proud of the way they swung the bats,” Science Hill coach Ryan Edwards said. “I thought our pitchers threw strikes. If we can limit the runs, maybe make another play here or there, it’s a 9-4 or maybe even a 9-3 game.”

Beaird, the starting catcher, added a RBI triple in the fifth inning. Connell Boyle, who was the designed hitter against the Pioneers, is also expected to see some time at catcher.

The infield has experience with Kyle Ouellette at first base and Tucker McPherson at second base. McPherson, hitting lead-off, had three RBIs Tuesday including a crucial two-run single in the fifth inning.

Holly played at shortstop and Willie Wynd was at third base.

Starting outfielders were Adams at left field, lightning-fast Malik Stephens in center field and JT Torbett in right field.

Stephens contributed heavily in the nine-hole, going 2-for-3 at the plate including a perfectly placed bunt in the fifth inning.

“We always want him to do that,” Edwards said. “That’s part of his game as a left-handed hitter. It was a beautiful bunt which couldn’t have come at a better time.”

David Crockett

With no clear-cut No. 1 hurler, the Pioneers are starting guys on the mound based on matchups.

Chase Miller got the start against Science Hill, while Heath Ricker, Isaac Barkley,  John Long, Cole Casey and Ryan Burger are some of the others who will be called into action. Austin Casey came in as a reliever Tuesday for the final two innings.

Dakota Allen is catching for Crockett, while Tyler Peterson is at first base. Long brings some experience to second base, with Ricker at shortstop and Burger at third base.

The Pioneers, who sport a 2-2 record, have a ton of athleticism in the outfield. Barkley is in left field with Troy White in center field and Luke Hopson in right field.

They also showed plenty of fight while facing Science Hill’s top pitchers. Down 6-2, Long’s three-run blast over right field pulled the Pioneers within a run. Overall, they had nine hits against the ’Toppers including RBI doubles by Ricker and Allen.

“I told them I was proud the way they fought and got after it tonight,” Crockett coach Scott Hagy said. “We had some things go wrong like a bad hop over our shortstop’s head. You can’t do anything about that stuff. Early in the game, we gave them some unearned runs and they took advantage of it. We’ve played Daniel Boone and Science Hill, two pretty good teams. They capitalized on our errors and that’s what good teams do.”

Daniel Boone

The Trailblazers got off to a blistering start to the season, scoring 46 runs in their first three games.

They were cooled off Monday in a 10-0 loss at Dobyns-Bennett, but bounced back with a 10-0 win at Sullivan Central on Tuesday to improve to 4-1 on the season. 

Left-hander Daniel Cox, an ETSU signee, is the team’s ace.

Brandon Davis, Zack Byron and Parker Bruel, whom Boone head coach Rob Hoover described as outstanding in shutting down Greeneville, are other starters.  Brandon Davis is currently a closer who will likely be a starter at some point this season, and Aaron Acres is being used as a reliever. 

Junior Zach Peters has moved from second base to catcher, while Andrew Street has taken over at first base.

Alex Percell is an athletic second baseman, playing alongside Bruel at shortstop. Third baseman Josh Bacon, also the team’s lead-off hitter, has been sizzling with the bat,  posting  a .650 average over the first four games.

Dustin Chandler, who will be moving to second base, has been starting at left field. Davis is the starter at center field and Byron is at right field. Senior Cameron Clabough, the team’s leading power hitter, has been the designated hitter, although he also will play catcher.

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