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By Dennis Atwood
FRONT ROYAL -- The Spotswood Trailblazers blazed a trail across home plate at Bing Crosby Stadium in a 14-1, mercy-rule shortened, nondistrict baseball game against the host Skyline Hawks on Monday night.
Hawks starter David Thomas used seven pitches to retire the first two Spotswood batters -- one struck out, the other popped out to second base.
Then Spotswood shortstop Kyle Weston (committed to NCAA Division I University of North Carolina-Asheville) smoked a line drive off the center field wall to start a Spotswood offensive storm.
The Trailblazers' starting pitcher, Austin Nicely, drew a walk and Weston stole third.
Thomas then committed a balk by stepping toward first without delivering a pick-off throw, scoring Weston and advancing Nicely to second.
"All of our pitchers need work," Hawks coach Ben Taylor said. "We're still developing where we're at. We don't have the big humming heater. You don't know where those things come from sometimes. He probably hasn't done that since Little League."
Seemingly rattled by the miscue, Thomas gave up a single, followed by two walks, the second free pass pushing Nicely across the plate.
With the bases loaded, first baseman Tyler Brady emptied them by lashing a double to right field for two RBIs. The third run scored on a mishandled throw from the outfield.
The ninth Spotswood (2-0) batter to come to the plate grounded out to end the scoring outburst.
In the second inning, Thomas again ran into two-out problems, walking the next two batters before getting Eric Berg to ground out for a scoreless Spotswood frame.
After walking the first two Trailblazers in the third, Thomas appeared to return to the form that brought him a win in a relief appearance against Kettle Run a week ago, allowing only one run on two successive groundouts.
Then the tide turned against Skyline as center fielder Travis Custer misplayed Logan Grimm's hit for a two-base error, scoring a run.
Brady and Weston then knocked timely singles, each collecting an RBI.
Wyatt Lillard came in to relieve Thomas, and got Nicely to pop out to end the inning with the Trailblazers leading 9-0.
After picking up two more runs in the fourth frame, Spotswood lit more offensive fireworks in the fifth, sending eight batters to the plate and scoring three runs on three hits, two walks and a sacrifice fly.
Skyline (1-3) scored its only run in the fourth, as Ryan Settle led off and reached on an error, advanced to second on Ty Helmick's single, moved to third on George Carter's single, and scored on a Nicely wild pitch.
Nicely pitched a complete game, allowing one unearned run on four hits, with five strikeouts, one walk and a wild pitch.
"I just wanted to come out and throw strikes, because I'd been delayed because our basketball season went deep into postseason [state semifinals]," Nicely said. "I was a little behind conditioning-wise, so I've had only two weeks of work. So I just wanted to throw strikes and let the defense rally behind me and they did a pretty good job of that tonight."
"We talk about it all the time, you've gotta keep competing, no matter what the score is, and no matter what inning it is, you've gotta compete, compete, compete," Taylor said. "Don't give in mentally, don't give in physically.
"As long as we're fighting, I'll be happy."