By Jerry Holsworth - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- In its first district game, Skyline took advantage of every Handley mistake to crush Judges 13-1 in mercy rule-shortened Northwestern District clash at Bridgeforth Field on Friday.
"You work hard on things in practice because when you come out for your first district game, you want to be hitting on all cylinders," Skyline coach Ben Taylor said. "You want to peak as a team when you're playing in your district games. Our guys really stepped it up, and we played very well tonight."
While Handley struggled to keep Hawks base runners from crossing home plate, Skyline starting pitcher Chaz Rutherford was almost unhittable. The junior hurler allowed just one run on three hits, and punctuated his dominance of Judges' batters by striking out the side in his last inning on the mound. Rutherford also made his presence felt on offense with two RBIs.
"Chaz was pounding the strike zone early and getting ahead of the batters," Taylor said. "He also didn't give up any extra-base hits. That's the kind of performance we're looking for. I know he really enjoyed ending the game with three straight strikeouts, too. He's just a great kid to have on your team, and a great teammate."
After a scoreless first inning, the Hawks began their offensive dominance in the second inning, scoring four runs. It was also the only inning where Skyline scored that the Judges didn't hurt themselves by committing errors, wild pitches or passed balls.
"I really don't think that it's an issue of do we recover," Handley coach Eddie Simmons said. "We'll just get back tomorrow and get back to work. Some of the things I saw today are not what I've seen our kids do in practice. It was just one of those days where I didn't think our kids were ready to play. If you're approaching the game like that against a very good team like Skyline, this is what's going to happen."
Nick Helmick, who finished the game 1-for-2 with a double, got things started in the second with a lead-off double to left center field. Wyatt Lillard put runners on first and second when he advanced to first after being hit by Handley pitcher.
Hunter Stewart put Helmick and Lillard in scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, and Sterling Jennings brought both home with a single to deep left field. Another sacrifice bunt by Barry Smallwood and a single to right center by Hunter Partlow scored two more Skyline runners, giving the Hawks a 4-0 lead after an inning and a half.
Skyline added another run in the third when Helmick scored from third on a double steal with Lillard.
Handley finally answered with a run of its own in the bottom of the third when a double to left by Andrew Lins scored Brian Thomas. It was not nearly enough to stop Skyline's run production, though.
After scoring two more runs in the fourth, the Hawks exploded for five runs in the fifth to put the game out of reach. It was also the inning that Handley's defense completely collapsed.
The Judges committed two errors, hit two batters and uncorked a wild pitch during the inning, all resulting in Skyline runs.
Helmick began the inning with a single to right, and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Lillard advanced to first on fielder's choice, but the throw to third by the Handley third baseman sailed high and Helmick scored.
Another throwing error scored Lillard. After relief pitcher Reagan Potts hit pinch hitter Jacob Sims, the bases were loaded for the third time in the inning with no outs.
A single by Rutherford drove in two more runs, giving the Hawks a 13-1 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth.
"Our main goal coming into this game was to get a victory in our first district game," Taylor said. "We're still moving some guys around, and we have a freshman catcher and freshman first baseman. We also a have sophomores at short and second base. We're pretty young, but I think that we proved today that we're pretty good, too."
Judges starting pitcher Jacob Rudolph took the loss, allowing four runs on four hits through 1 1/3 innings on the mound.