(Photos by Lee Talbert@johnson City Press)
Kyle Ouellette led off the second inning by concluding an eight-pitch at-bat with a single and the Science Hill Hilltoppers were off and running Wednesday at Cardinal Park.
Ouelette went 3-for-3 with three runs, two doubles and two RBIs and Daniel Sweeney allowed two earned runs in five innings of a 12-3 win against Sullivan South.
Ouellette fouled off five pitches before singling in the second against the sidearm delivery of right-hander Nathan Dye (1-3). It ignited a four-run frame that included hits from Matthew Beaird, J.T. Torbett and Matt Thigpen, as well as some shaky defense that led to two runs on Will Wynd’s fly ball.
The Rebels (10-5) got back within 4-3 after four and a half innings thanks to Russell Koesters’ three RBIs, but the ’Toppers answered with a three-run fifth that was highlighted by Ouellette’s two-run line-drive double to right-center.
“He was throwing me in a lot and I was just trying to get something out over the plate and kept fighting,” said Ouellette, a senior first baseman. “His ball had a lot of tail on it. … Once I got something out over the plate I just tried to give it a ride. He hung me one right down the middle.”
Science Hill (9-4) added five runs in the sixth, which included a two-run line-drive single from Connell Boyle (2-for-4, two RBIs).
“We’re starting to get more line-drives, ground balls and not just popping it up and stuff like that,” Science Hill coach Ryan Edwards said. “We’re having better approaches at the plate. … I thought the second inning was one of the best innings we’ve had, because I thought that pitcher did a great job. We had some good approaches in that second inning.
“Kyle battled him and battled him and kept fouling them off and got us going in that inning, and then he drove in some runs late that really opened it up.”
Sweeney (2-0), a 6-foot-5 senior right-hander, allowed seven hits and struck out four while walking none. South’s Cooper Jackson had a 3-0 count with Dalton Light on first and one out in the second, but Sweeney came all the way back to get a fly-out on a 3-2 pitch.
“Sweeney goes out there every time and throws strikes,” Ouellette said. “He’s consistent. When he’s on, he’s good. I mean, it’s proven. He’s going to ETSU, and he’s doing a great job.”
Matt Thigpen was 3-for-4 with a line-out. One of his hits was a bunt single that heady sophomore shortstop Jordan Holly scored from second on. Holly’s play generates a lot of smiles in the stands and the Hilltoppers’ dugout.
“He’s super fast and he’s got great hands,” Edwards said, “and that’s a great combination at short.”
Landon Knack was 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI. Torbett was 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI. Beaird was 1-for-3 with an RBI and a line-out to right.
Science Hill’s bullpen was all business. Sophomore Reece Westmoreland struck out one while pitching a perfect sixth and fellow left-hander Avery Conkin, a freshman, and senior Brad Carter combined for a perfect ninth.
Koesters — 3-for-4 with a triple — had three of South’s seven hits.
“Credit Koesters,” Edwards said. “He handled the bat really well.”
South hosts Johnson County on Monday and visits Unicoi County Tuesday.
“We swung it good today,” Rebels coach Anthony Richardson said. “If we do that in our conference play, we’ll have a chance to do some good things.”
Science Hill plays at home today at 6 p.m. against T.C. Roberson (N.C.), which has a prospect in position player Braxton Davidson.