By Brad Fauber
WINCHESTER -- Skyline's bats continued to stay hot when the Hawks faced off with host Handley at Bridgeforth Field on Monday.
Coming off a strong offensive showing in a win over rival Warren County last week, the Hawks were solid with the sticks again on Monday, hitting three home runs en route to a 10-8 Northwestern District victory over the Judges.
Handley (3-7, 1-4 Northwestern) appeared to have an answer for every run that the Hawks (7-4, 2-2) were able to put up on the scoreboard throughout the contest, as the Judges rallied back to tie the ball game on three different occasions. But it was Skyline sophomore Tyler Johnson's two-run homer in the top of the seventh inning that broke an 8-8 tie and proved the difference in the Hawks' win.
Skyline watched as a three-run lead evaporated in the bottom of the sixth inning, but Johnson quickly put the Hawks back on top in the seventh when he sent an 0-1 pitch from Handley starter Taylor Sandroni over the fence in left field for a two-run homer, the first of his varsity career.
"I was just trying to put it in play," Johnson said. "On the first pitch the umpire called it a little inside, so I was just trying to put it out there. It was like right down the middle."
Johnson was one of three Hawks batters to go deep in Monday's contest, as sophomore Hunter Partlowe and senior Nick Helmick also hit their first homers of the season.
Partlowe's blast came in the very first inning, as the leadoff hitter found himself in an 0-2 count against Sandroni before he sent the ball over the left-field fence to give Skyline a quick 1-0 lead. The Hawks added another run in the inning on an RBI double by Johnson, but Handley responded with three runs in the bottom of the first to take a 3-2 lead.
That would be the only lead that the Judges would hold, as Skyline scored at least one run in every inning but the fourth while banging out 13 hits.
"The thing is, we've seen Taylor Sandroni for the past several years. We've had a look at him, so I think that played to our advantage. And to hit three home runs, I think that showed," Taylor said. "I think they knew what to expect from him, it wasn't something brand new. Taylor's a heck of a ballplayer, we just happened to hit the ball tonight."
Helmick's home run came in the top of the third, when he led off the inning with a towering shot off the first offering from Sandroni to give Skyline a 4-3 lead. But Helmick's biggest hit of the night came in the top of the sixth, when he laced a three-run triple to deep center that broke a 5-5 tie.
"When I got up there with the bases loaded -- that was a big hit," Helmick, who finished with four RBIs, said. "I just wanted to see it and hit it, don't try to do anything crazy with it. I just dropped the bat on the ball and let it do the rest."
Handley didn't back down, however, as Andrew Lins, Nick Dempsey (4 for 4, RBI) and Jake Rudolph (3 for 4, RBI) each knocked in a run to tie the game at 8-all.
"There is no quit in these kids. They play hard no matter what the score is, where we are, what inning it is, what situation -- they're going to battle you," Judges coach Eddie Simmons said. "You're going to have to beat them, and tonight that's what Skyline did. They just outplayed us tonight."
Joe Dawkins (1-0) picked up the win for Skyline, as he pitched the final 1 1/3 innings. Freshman Joe Pingley made his first career start for the Hawks, going four innings while allowing four runs on six hits.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org