By Robert Edmonds - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- In a game that could have gone either way, Skyline got the best of Warren County on Friday night at Bing Crosby Stadium in a big cross-town rivalry baseball matchup.
A very competitive pitching matchup came down to the Hawks' ability to take advantage of Wildcats errors and capitalize when opportunities were presented. Skyline was able to get runners on base in all but one inning as the Hawks came away with a 4-1 victory.
"This game really came down to Skyline making all the plays that they needed to and we made a couple mistakes," Wildcats coach Vernon Mathews said. "I think our kids kept battling and had a good attitude all night. We just didn't get it done when we needed to, and that's the way baseball is sometimes."
After each team scored a run in the first inning, Skyline broke the tie in the bottom of the third against Wildcats starter Ryan Tierney. Dakota Smith opened the inning by reaching base after being hit by a Tierney pitch inside. Smith moved to second on a ground ball out and then was moved to third when Tierney was called for a balk.
Chaz Rutherford then helped his own outing by beating out an infield hit to shortstop, allowing Smith to score and give the Hawks the lead.
Jacob Sims followed with a hit, and then Joe Bass loaded the bases for Skyline for the second time in the game when he reached base on an error by the Wildcats' third baseman. Tierney escaped the threat when he got Cody Tharpe to fly out in the infield to end the inning.
"Jacob [Sims] has really stepped up for us and has been hitting the ball well," Hawks coach Ben Taylor said. "We took a look at the lineup and decided to move him into the four spot and he has run with it since."
Skyline again took advantage of an error by Nicholas Jenkins at third for the Wildcats in the bottom of the fifth. This time, Justin Darr was the beneficiary of an off-line throw by Jenkins, allowing Darr to reach base. After stealing second base, Darr scored on Sims' third single of the game, this time to center field, to extend the lead to 3-1.
The Hawks added one final run in support of Rutherford in the bottom half of the sixth inning. Hunter Partlowe led off with a triple into the right-field corner. Two batters later, Smith hit a bouncer back to the pitcher. Tierney fired home looking to catch Smith, who was streaking to the plate.
Just after Wildcats catcher Jacob Sheppard caught the throw from Tierney, Smith barreled into Sheppard at the plate and forced the ball loose, giving the Skyline the three-run advantage.
While his team was coming through on the offensive end, Rutherford silenced the Wildcats' offense in his fifth complete game of the season from the mound.
The Hawks ace recorded nine strikeouts in the outing as he continues to dominate from the mound this season.
"When Chaz [Rutherford] puts his mind to it, he is a pretty good pitcher," Taylor said. "He is a competitor and always battling."
"I was just trying to get ahead in the count and let my defense do the work," Rutherford said. "It was a tight game tonight, but when we got the runs to go ahead, there was a little more room and I was so much more relieved."