STUARTBoth the Canadian Cougars and Haileyville Warriors scored early against the Stuart Hornets, but every time an opponent scored the Hornets had an answer.
Once Stuart’s pitchers found their grooves, opposing scoring stopped while the Hornets’ kept on going.
The Hornets scored in every inning of both games Tuesday, run-ruling the Cougars 11-3 and the Warriors 10-2 on Tuesday in Stuart.
With the wins, Stuart became the Pitt 8 conference champion, going 7-0 in conference play this season.
“We set out to win the conference and the conference tournament,” Hornets coach Jon Booth said. “We didn’t get (the tournament) done, so we put a lot of focus into trying to win the regular-season conference.”
Stuart improved to 16-10 with its wins. Canadian fell to 9-11 and Haileyville fell to 3-11.
Hornets 11, Cougars 3:
The Hornets looked unfocused early in their first game Tuesday, falling behind 1-0 on an RBI sacrifice bunt by Chance Tanner in the top of the first inning and then 2-1 on a sacrifice fly by Tyler Owens in the second. But Traynor Blasengame bunted his way to first with one out in the bottom of the second, then stole second.
“I just think our heads weren’t in it when we first came out,” Booth said. “I’d say the rain out yesterday, not getting to play, not doing our regular hitting, coming off a long holiday weekend. Not to make excuses, but ... we were a little bit sluggish.”
Canadian starting pitcher Hayden Hopper struck out Eric Justice in the second, but Zayne Goode lined one towards Chase Shearwood at shortstop. Shearwood tried to grab the ball just above his left shoe, but the ball popped out of his glove.
Knowing he didn’t have enough time to throw out Goode at first, Shearwood instead threw home. Blasengame beat the throw to tie the game 2-2.
Goode then stole second base and came home on a double to center by Grady Brewer. Brewer finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored and one steal.
“Just had to make sure to sit back, wait, and hit it,” Brewer said. Of his team’s third-inning turnaround, he said, “I think we just kinda decided it was time. We needed to play.”
After a perfect inning from Hornets starter Justin Lawrence, Stuart went back to work in the bottom of the third against reliever Daniel Lenox. Derek Beck singled with one out and stole second, Jacob Stopp walked, then both moved up a base on a passed ball.
Lawrence walked to load the bases, then Blasengame belted one through the drawn-in infield, scoring two runs. Blasengame added an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth, batting 3-for-3 with three RBIs, two stolen bases and a run scored.
“I try to see the ball,” Blasengame said. “No matter what pitcher comes up there, if you see the ball, then if you just take a hack you should be able to get it.
“At the beginning of the game, I think we just came in expecting to win. And then after that, we kind of just got together as a team and played together like we should.”
An additional Stuart run scored on a passed ball for a 5-2 lead. David Gaylor drew a walk in the top of the fourth, took second on a wild pitch and third on an error, but Lawrence struck out Owens looking to strand Gaylor and end the inning.
Justin Lawrence gave up three runs on four hits, two walks, a hit-by-pitch and six strikeouts. He held the Cougars hitless with runners in scoring position.
Stuart scored five runs in the bottom of the fourth for an 11-2 lead. Dillon Lawrence, Justin Lawrence and Blasengame all drove in runs.
Canadian’s Kaleb Stowers scored when Brewer dropped what would’ve been a game-ending popup in the top of the fifth, but Justin Lawrence got Lenox to line out to shortstop to preserve the eight-run lead and invoke the run-rule.
“We could’ve practiced today and threw in the bullpen, or we could come out here and we could get live action against a good team, a good opponent, and try to practice that way,” Canadian coach Brad Davis said.
Trying to keep Hopper fresh for Districts on Thursday, Davis said he kept Hopper on a 30-pitch limit, taking him out with two outs in the top of the first. Hopper’s ability to throw first-pitch strikes had kept the Hornets’ offense in check, but relievers Lenox and Tanner had less success.
Hornets 10, Warriors 2:
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