KINGSPORT — If hitting is contagious, then Sullivan South had the fever Thursday.
The Rebels, generating 17 base hits, pulled away late to a 12-2 mercy-rule win over visiting Sullivan Central in first-round play of the District 1-AA double- elimination tournament.
Piling up 17 hits can sure win some postseason baseball games.
“Sounds good to me,” said South coach Anthony Richardson. “We struggled early, but the kid on the mound (Central right-hander Hunter Stanley) threw strikes and kept them in the game.
“Then after a couple innings we started to put the ball in play and made them make plays. It was good. Any win this time of year, we’ll take it.”
The victory was the 12th straight for second-seeded South (18-6).
Central, seeded seventh, hurt itself all day with less-than-spectacular play in the outfield.
“The final score doesn’t reflect how well Hunter pitched tonight and it doesn’t reflect how well our approaches were at the plate,” Central coach Clay Colley said. “What it does reflect is how poorly we played defensively.”
Central (5-19) misplayed at least two flyballs into base hits. On one occasion, a potential third out fell behind a charging outfielder, fueling a decisive five-run South fourth inning.
“We get out of that inning 2-2 like we should have then it’s a different ballgame,” Colley said.
Instead, South led 6-2 after the fateful fourth, before finishing the job with a six-run sixth.
The Rebels had a long list of offensive stars, starting at the top with leadoff man Isaac Haynie, who had a pair of run-scoring singles plus an RBI double that tied the game at 2 in the fourth.
Sean Reed had four hits and two RBIs for the victors, who received a two-run single from winning pitcher Cody Pugh. Brody Ratliff bagged three singles and scored twice. Marshall Buchanan had a pair of singles and scored two runs.
Drew Hoover, with two hits, had an RBI for South, as did Will Harris and Jackson Dean.
“That double by Haynie sort of set us up for a big inning at a key time,” Richardson said.
PUGH GOES THE DISTANCE
Pugh, a senior right-hander who covered all six innings, had an easy go of it after Central scored two runs in the top of the first when Logan Bowers and Carson Tate led off with hits.
The Cougars finished with five hits, two by Tate. Clay Wampler and Jacob Bombailey had RBIs.
Pugh, who recorded three strikeouts, did not permit a runner past second base after the first inning.
“He threw strikes and I don’t think he walked anybody,” Richardson said. “He’s done that all year. We figured if we came out and threw strikes that we could score some runs.
“We’ve got to clean up our defense, though,” he added. “As you go further along in tournament play, whoever makes the fewest mistakes is probably going to be the team that wins games.”
The tournament now moves to a single site in Elizabethton.
South will take on Unicoi County, and Central will meet Happy Valley.