Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

April 30, 2014

Harding, Tigers mark anniversary vs. Blues

HONAKER, Va. — A cool, rainy afternoon of baseball at the field named in his honor certainly didn’t dampen the spirits of Honaker coach Tom Harding.

One year to the day after suffering a stroke in a game against Council in causing him to miss the rest of the 2013 season, Harding guided his Tigers to their 11th win in a row. Honaker defeated Richlands 10-0 in non-conference play on Wednesday.

“This feels great,” remarked Harding. “I told the boys before the game that this was my anniversary, but they didn’t know what I meant. It’s great to be able to coach this year, especially with a great group of kids.”

Honaker’s Mackenzie Phillips tossed the six-inning complete game shutout. Phillips was in complete control most of the game. He threw 79 pitches and 60 were strikes. He finished with six strikeouts and only issued one walk.

“This is the year everyone has been looking forward to,” said Phillips who is one of seven seniors. “We just try to come out every game and play good fundamental baseball. Putting the ball in play, making the big play when necessary and we rely a lot on our defense.”

The best chance for the Blue Tornado to produce a run came in the fourth inning. Matthew Justus doubled and River Michaels singled to start the inning. Ben Brown followed with a walk to load the bases with no one out.

But Zach Johnson grounded into a fielder’s choice to Honaker first baseman Chandler Miller who threw a strike to the plate to force Justus for the first out of the inning. The bases remained loaded but Trent Davis grounded back to Phillips, who fired to home to catcher Jacob Mitchell for the second out and he threw on to first for a rare for high school 1-2-3 double play.

“We had no one out and didn’t get anyone home,” Richlands coach Adam Davis said. “You have to get some key hits, get some runner’s home and get some confidence going.

“I also felt the error in the second inning was big. We could have gotten out of the inning and got some momentum going our way. ”

Honaker (11-0) put a four spot on the scoreboard in the second. Austin Ray started the inning with a solo homerun.

“Really it was a popup that just kept carrying,” Ray said. “I got under the ball, I have to work on getting on top of the ball more.”

After a walk and a hit batter, Mitchell had a run scoring single. Hunter Lester reached on the error and another run scored. Phillips added a RBI single to give the Tigers a 4-0 advantage.

Two unearned runs scored for the Tigers in the third. Avin Parrott had a double in the inning and Tyler Hale contributed a run scoring single.

The Tigers ended it early with four runs in the sixth. The first run scored on a double steal. Hunter Lester hit a RBI single. Parrott ended it with his second double of the game that scored the final two runs.

“No doubt this is a big win for us,” stated Harding. “We haven’t been able to get outside and practice because of the weather, so it was good just to get on the field. We are more fortunate than most because we have such a good field, most fields you couldn’t have played on today.’

Richlands (4-8) will travel to Lebanon today in a Southwest District matchup. Honaker will host Holston on Friday in a battle between the top two teams in the Crooked Road Conference.    

At Tom Harding Field

Richlands..................................000  000  —   0  4  4

Honaker......................................142  004 —  10  8  1

Davis, Ratliff (6), Harrison (6) and Laforce. Phillips and Mitchell.

W—Phillips (2-0). L—Davis (1-3). HR—Ray (H), 2nd, none on.

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