By Jeff Nations - firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENS CITY -- Skyline's offense provided Hawks starting pitcher Chaz Rutherford with plenty of run support early on against Sherando in Monday's Northwestern District baseball game.
Skyline plated three runs against the Warriors' tough left-hander, Darrell Thompson, to stake Rutherford to an early lead.
That was good.
The Hawks' porous defense steadily helped Sherando chip away at that lead as the Warriors plated three runs in three different innings to pull out an 11-3 victory.
In all, the Hawks committed six errors.
Not so good.
"We're still fitting some pieces there," Skyline coach Ben Taylor said. "We're still working with some younger guys at new positions, so you're going to have some of those growing pains. You hate to have them in those key situations."
Skyline (4-7, 3-3 Northwestern) jumped on Thompson from the start, plating a first-inning run on an RBI double from Joe Bass and then two more in the second on Cody Tharpe's two-run homer to left field.
It was an uncharacteristically shaky start for Thompson, who has mowed down opponents all season.
"Darrell's the type, he can throw all day," Sherando coach Pepper Martin said. "Being really the first hot and humid day of the year, he probably threw in the bullpen longer than he should've.
"... A team that swings the bat fairly well is going to hit you regardless if the pitcher can only throw one pitch for a strike, and that's what he was doing. He was hanging his breaking ball, his change-up was up, and then we'd even get behind in the count with our fastball. This was not his best outing."
If Thompson needed a pick-me-up, the Warriors were ready to provide it. Logan Bucher's RBI single cut Skyline's lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the second, and then Sherando took the lead with a three-run third. Reid Entsminger's long single to center plated two of those runs, and a pair of errors by the Hawks helped account for the other.
"With our team this year, we have a lot of speed," Entsminger said. "We just try to put the ball in play because our speed helps us out a lot."
Rutherford fared even worse in the fourth. After getting the first two outs of the inning, he allowed a single to Zach Wagner, then watched Taylor Loudan reach on yet another error. Tre Porter was then intentionally walked to load the bases and set up a force out at any base, and Rutherford seemed to wriggle out of the jam by inducing a pop-up by Jacob Carney in the infield.
Instead, the ball fell to the infield dirt on another error as two more runs came home. Another intentional walk loaded the bases again, and Chase Smallwood then drew a walk to force in the third run before Rutherford finally ended the inning with a strikeout.
That was it for Rutherford, who deserved a better fate.
"He was tired," Taylor said. "A little bit warmer day -- maybe he goes longer, later in the season. He was all right through the first three, then that [fourth inning] just wore on him. That happens. We've got to find a way to do the little things. Good things happen when you do the little things, and we're just not doing them."
Thompson, after the rough start, managed to labor through four innings to earn the win. Taylor Loudan pitched three scoreless innings for the save.
"After the initial runs being scored, he settled down somewhat," Martin said of Thompson. "And then in the fourth, we could tell he'd just hit a wall. He has never thrown 81 pitches in four innings, or even been close to that. Heck, earlier in the season he had an 89-pitch complete game.
"But we can't always expect him to come out here with his best stuff."
The Warriors plated three more runs in the fifth off Skyline reliever Sterling Jennings, with an error once again sparking the two-out rally. Tre Porter added an RBI single and Jacob Carney drove in a run with a triple.
Pinch hitter Scotty Nicholson's RBI single in the bottom of the sixth accounted for the final run.