By ANTHONY STEVENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
HONAKER, Va. —
The Tigers won their third consecutive game to start the season.
Honaker (3-0) swept the season series with Richlands, defeating the Blues 4-1 at a cold Harding Field on Wednesday.
“We’ve had trouble with Richlands the last three years,” said Honaker coach Tom Harding. “I’m tickled to be able to get two wins against them. We did a much better job at the plate than we’ve been doing and played pretty good defense.”
Senior Payton Ball led the charge offensively going 2-for-4 with a couple of long doubles. Ball scored two of the Tigers runs. He was the only player with a multi-hit game. Seven other players had hits for Honaker.
“It was a good game, especially for no more than we’ve been able to get on the field to practice,” said Ball. “We’ve not been able to see ‘live’ pitching in practice yet, the only time we’ve seen it is in the games. To have nine hits tonight, we’re settling down and I think we’re coming around.”
The Tigers also received a couple of good pitching performances. Travis Price pitched the first four innings to get the win. Price scattered three hits and the run he allowed wasn’t earned. Sophomore Austin Ray came on in relief and pitched three shutout innings to get a save.
“I’m very pleased with Ray,” stated Harding. “This was a very big ballgame, for him especially.”
The key inning for Ray was in the sixth. Michael Horton walked. Zach Yates and River Michaels followed with singles to load the bases with no one out. Ray got a strikeout and then induced a grounder back to himself and he started a 1-2-3 double play to get out of the inning without allowing a run.
Likewise, Price got out of a huge jam in the fourth. Michael Horton doubled and Yates walked. Horton went to third on a wild pitch, and Yates stole second to put runners at second and third, again with no one out. Price got two strikeouts and a ground out to leave the runners stranded.
“We just didn’t do the little things you need to do to win,” first-year Richlands coach Adam Davis said. “We had two opportunities to try to hit the ball to the right side, or lift the ball deep to score but we weren’t successful doing that. I had a couple of seniors that made errors that made a difference, especially in a close game like this.”
Honaker took a 1-0 lead in the first. Ball ripped his first double and scored on a sacrifice fly by Austin Kiser.
Richlands (0-2) tied it in the second. Horton reached on an error and then scored on another error. The Tigers went up for good in the bottom of the inning. Hunter Lester singled and scored when Jacob Mitchell reached on an error.
They added a run in the third when Ball doubled and scored on a single by Chandler Miller. Their final run came in the fifth. Austin Kiser singled. Pinch-runner Mathew Hutchinson scored on a sac fly by Miller.
“We did what we had to do,” Harding said. “I feel pretty good after this one. “I look forward to seeing how this year plays out. This team has a lot of potential, they just have to keep working hard. I believe this bunch will continue to improve as the year goes along.”
Honaker will host Lebanon today, while Richlands will play Nitro today in Beckley.
Richlands........................010 000 0 — 1 6 2
Honaker...........................111 010 x — 4 9 2
Mays, Davis (4), Guerriero (6) and Yates. Price, Ray (5) and Mitchell. W—Price (1-0). L—Mays (0-1). S—Ray (1). HR—none.