By Greg Brill - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Something wasn't right about Logan McCaughan's pitching mechanics, and Luray baseball coach Steve Griffith aimed to change that before the Bulldogs played a meaningful game.
Sending his top returning pitcher home with film, Griffith had his left-hander study what he was doing wrong and work toward improving enough to be ready for Friday night's opener at Skyline.
Things did not start out the way McCaughan had hoped, as he gave up three first-inning runs. McCaughan settled in the next inning and did not give up another run as Luray came away with an 11-3 non-district win at Bing Crosby Stadium.
"After the first inning I was finding my spots and my pitches were going good," McCaughan said. "We didn't play them last year, so I didn't know too much about them. I was just trying to hit my spots, just do what I could."
McCaughan had to make adjustments after a three-walk, 32-pitch first inning. McCaughan also gave up a two-out, two-run double to deep right by Greg Strickland in the first, which actually was Skyline's first hit of the season, to fall behind 3-1.
The Hawks (0-2) were no-hit in their opener, a 14-1 loss on Tuesday to Broadway.
When McCaughan walked Eli McEathron to open the second, the junior had walked four of the first eight batters. Rodney Custer moved McEathron over with a sacrifice, but McCaughan got out of the inning with a fly out and strikeout.
From there, McCaughan allowed just one more hit and one walk before getting lifted with one out in the sixth after he reached 95 pitches.
"He got a little confidence," Griffith said. "He threw strikes and got some guys out. That made him a different pitcher.
"I was hoping he'd go at least four [innings], but then he got on a roll in the midpoint of the game and I wanted him to pitch a little bit longer. That helps us a lot because we play Monday and our No. 2 pitcher can be ready to go."
While McCaughan settled in, the Hawks had issues with their staff for most of the game. Skyline coach Nick Sborz used four pitchers, and the group combined to allow 11 free passes, including eight walks.
"Of course it's frustrating," Sborz said. "You know the adjustments you're hoping they make are going a little slower than we thought they would. We can't give them free passes like that. Walks are hurting us and our pitchers have got to make some adjustments. We need to make them fast and turn this around."
When the Bulldogs did get pitches in the zone, they hit in the clutch.
"That was key -- you don't want to get out on a bad pitch, you want a good pitch to hit," Griffith said. "They did that for the most part. We got some guys on base and got some key hits."
The game was tied heading to the third when Luray (1-0) scored five runs on one hit to open an 8-3 lead.
Skyline starter Ryan Settle (57 pitches) left after just two innings, turning the game over to Mike Litwin. In facing only four batters, Litwin (0-1) could not record an out.
The Bulldogs drew three straight walks to open the third before Litwin hit Kyle Price to force in the go-ahead run. Rodney Custer came on and the Bulldogs got their second run on another bases-loaded pass, this one with one out. The last three runs in the frame came across on a fielder's choice, error and Daniel Runyon's RBI single to left.
The Hawks got their best work in relief from Custer, who lasted until giving up two runs on three hits in the sixth. His brother, Travis, closed things up.
Skyline lost again as a group. The Hawks managed only three hits, getting just one after the third, a double from McEathron. Skyline also had three fielding errors.
"The quality at-bats were a little bit better tonight, but we're still not where we need to be," Sborz said. "We can see our guys trying to make adjustments. It's all about getting that timing down. Once we get that timing down, I think we'll be all right. We're not pushing the panic button just yet."