Science Hill desperately needed to defeat Dobyns-Bennett on Monday to stay in the Big Eight Conference race, and Will Craig delivered.
The junior right-hander allowed one run in six-plus innings and produced both of the Hilltoppers’ runs in their 2-1 victory at Cardinal Park.
Craig topped out at 92 mph and was consistently at 88-89 mph.
“This is the best I’ve thrown so far,” Craig said. “I felt amazing coming in, because they gave me a few days — several days of rest — and it’s the best I’ve felt all year.”
Science Hill (6-2, 17-17) moved into a tie with Dobyns-Bennett (8-2, 20-4) and Daniel Boone in the loss column, and avenged a 4-3 loss at D-B on March 20. Craig (3-2) pitched in that one too, as did D-B’s Aaron Quillen. The Indians’ right-hander was back on the mound Monday, and still giving the Hilltoppers fits.
Science Hill finished with three hits. One of them was Craig’s two-out single to left in the bottom of the fifth inning. It scored Heath Loyd — he had fisted a two-out bloop single to shallow left-center field and stole second base — to give Science Hill 2-0 lead.
Craig produced the first run when he reached on an error to score Kyle Wilson with two outs in the third inning.
The Indians’ Garrett Clark led off the seventh with a wind-aided opposite-field home run in the right field corner, and Craig was lifted one batter later when Sam Taylor reached on an error. Craigh struck out five, walked one and allowed seven hits.
Right-hander Andrew Sweeney relieved Craig and retired three straight batters — the first one on Will Allen’s sacrifice bunt — for his third save.
Taylor was stranded at second base when right fielder J.T. Torbett made a difficult twisting catch near the right field fence to end the game. It was one of two good catches by Torbett, who got a good jump coming in on Clark’s sinking line drive to retire the side with Glenn Evans stranded at second in the fourth inning.
The Hilltoppers defense delivered in several critical situations. Wilson started a 4-6-3 double play that ended the sixth on Connor Gunn’s sharply hit ball with runners at first and second. Loyd rolled it adeptly at second base with a sliding baserunner bearing down.
“That was a great play,” Science Hill coach Ryan Edwards said. “We were able to get a ground ball out of a good hitter. He hit it hard, but right at our guy and we were able to turn that double play.”
Science Hill’s defense also came through when center fielder Reed Hayes threw out speedy Chris Cook at the plate. Cook was trying to score from second on Peyton Taylor’s two-out single.
Cook avoided Jackson Reid’s initial tag, but missed home plate in doing so. Reid alertly tagged him after calmly handling a high hop on a strong throw.
“Reed has a heck of an arm,” Craig said. “You saw him play football. He throws the ball 65-70 yards. Without that throw, we wouldn’t have been in the situation where we are.”
Dobyns-Bennett coach Ryan Wagner was left to second-guess himself, although he’ll continue to err on the side of agression, espeically with two outs in an inning.
“Maybe I should’ve held him,” Wagner said. “He’s one of our fastest runners. ... Both pitchers threw really well. Of course, that’s what you expect from those two. A mistake here and there was the difference.”
Loyd, walked, singled and was robbed of extra bases on a good over-the-shoulder the catch by Taylor near the warning track in left field in the first inning.
Edwards was 1-for-2 with a walk. Malik Stephens stole two bases. Reid was 1-for-2 and was hit by a pitch.
Austin Dayton was 2-for-3 for D-B. Evans was 1-for-1 with a sacrifice bunt and was hit by a pitch.
“You’ve gotta bring your best game to beat those guys,” Science Hill’s Edwards said. “And I feel like you’ve gotta bring your best game, I hope, to beat us, too. ... (Craig) brought his A-game. He pitched a great game. The bottom line is I don’t care what his velocity was; he spotted up and pitched on both sides of the plate and got his breaking ball down. I’m proud of him for being able to locate his pitches.”
Science Hill hosts Tennessee High today at 6 p.m. D-B visits Sullivan Central today.