King rules mound in Wildcats’ win

FRONT ROYAL — About three weeks ago, Austin King was spending his time throwing tennis balls against walls in the dugout to keep his throwing motion grooved while he recovered from an injured foot.

On Tuesday, he went the distance on the mound at Bing Crosby Stadium in an 8-3 triumph over crosstown rival and Conference 28 opponent Skyline. Not only did he earn the victory over his intra-city opponent, he also picked up his fourth win without a loss on the season.

“Well, this was my third start and I appeared once in relief and picked up the win in that one, too,” said King, the Wildcats’ clean-up hitter and part-time first baseman. “It’s taken some time, but I’m feeling pretty good, too.”

Warren County swept its series with Skyline by tallying eight runs in the top of the sixth, then holding on for the five-run difference.

“It’s a good rivalry. We’re all friends, but we compete on the field. After they beat us in football and swept us in basketball, this feels pretty good,” said King.

“We’ve been bringing him along slowly,” said Warren County coach Vernon Mathews, “but he’s been focused and we thought he deserved this complete game tonight.”

Not only did King pitch all seven innings, he had a shutout going until the Hawks’ bottom of the seventh. Playing as the home team, the Hawks scratched out three runs on two hits and two Warren County errors.

But the odds that King and his Warren County teammates had to overcome — defending a comfortable lead — were nothing like what Hawks starting pitcher Tyler Ritenour faced on Tuesday.

He went 5 2/3 innings, allowing just four hits and two earned runs.

This was a pitcher’s duel, as the senior hurlers went after each other and the other team for five innings.

The Wildcats had accomplished just one hit off Ritenour, while the Hawks had come up with four hits before the sixth.

But in the top of that inning, the Wildcats not only batted around, but sent 12 hitters to the plate to face Ritenour, who was finally lifted. Reliever Dylan Hamman entered to get the last out of the sixth.

In all, Warren County totaled six hits in the inning, but also relied on Skyline errors for the eight-run outlay. Of those runs, Ritenour was responsible for just two of them.

“It’s too bad because Tyler pitched well,” said Skyline coach Jay Barnes. “We didn’t help him out a lot in the one inning. Otherwise, we competed well.”

Warren County’s Eric Baker (2-for-4) posted two hits in the sixth. Joseph Rutherford got on via a bunt and error. Blake Cockrell (2-for-3) and teammate Cameron Ford also hit safely for the Wildcats.

But Skyline was also dropping outfield flies and made two infield errors to help the Wildcats’ cause.

Meanwhile, King kept Skyline off-balance, striking out seven and allowing seven hits. The Hawks bunched together two hits and two Wildcat errors to earn their three runs in the bottom of the seventh.

“I threw my curveball for strikes and that was the difference,” King said. “My plan was to throw strikes and use my off-speed stuff. They were hitting it for the most part, but our defense did a good job.”

The Hawks’ Gavin Kandrick and Robert Presley each put up two hits.