WARDELL, Va. —
Score early and hold on.
That seemed to be the modus operandi Tuesday evening for the Tazewell Bulldogs who scored in the first three innings and held off a seventh inning Richlands charge to down the Blue Tornado 8-5 at Southwest Virginia Community College.
“Richlands has a good, competitive team and they fought back,” said Tazewell head coach Aaron Buchanan. “When you play Richlands, it’s always a hard fought game and today was one of those games. We put the ball in play early and it worked well for us.”
Richlands head coach Adam Davis said, “The past two games, Bluefield and Tazewell, it seems like we rallied a little bit too late. We got ourselves in a hole early in the game. We’re always trying to play from behind and that double play ball was a big difference too.”
Colin Hancock, the game’s leadoff hitter singled to right and Chase Illig walked, steals put runners on second and third before Tyler Myers singled with two down to score both runners and stake the Dogs to a 2-0 lead.
In the second Tazewell struck again against Blues starter River Michaels. Bulldogs pitcher Todd Mulkey led off the frame and walked. Michaels then retired two Bulldogs before Colin Hancock got aboard on an error that also scored Mulkey. Hancock stole second and scored on Illig’s hit to right. Illig then stole second and third and scored when the throw to nab him at third sailed into left field. Tazewell led 5-0 going to the bottom of the second.
Chace Collins opened the Richlands second and reached on an error. Another error moved him to second and a wild pitch allowed him to take third. He trotted home on Patrick Jackson’s pop to shallow right with Richlands’ first run of the game.
Tazewell was not finished scoring. Brett Jones led off the third with a double to left that one-hopped the fence. He scored on Myers’ second single of the game. Myers stole second, went to third on Mason Turner’s single and slid into the plate on a squeeze bunt by Nick Elkins to make it 7-1.
In that inning Michaels gave way to Jay Harrison for Richlands. Michaels pitched two-plus inning, gave up six runs on six hits, walked three and struck out two.
Richlands got to Mulkey in its half of the third, sending eight batters to the plate and scoring two runs on no hits. A bases loaded walk by Collins forced home Dylan Laforce, who reached on an error. The second run scored when Trent Davis was hit by a pitch. That forced home Ben Brown who had earlier walked.
The only 1-2-3 inning of the game took place in the top of the fourth, but it was non-traditional as Harrison walked Jones with two outs. Jones was then cut down stealing as Laforce fired a strike to Brown covering second for the final out of the frame.
Mulkey faced his final batter in the fourth. J.T. Anderson walked to start the inning and Tazewell called on Nick Elkins who retired the next three hitters.
The Bulldogs scored a single run in the fifth. Luke Parsons singled and stole second. He scored on Casey Lee’s hit to left.
Harrison was effective against Tazewell the remainder of the game, allowing a hit in both the sixth and seventh innings, but no runs. Elkins allowed Richlands hits in he fifth and sixth, but no one came home. That changed in the bottom of the seventh.
With darkness approaching and rally caps donned, Matt Justus led off the inning with a single to left and took second on a wild pitch. Michaels walked, but a pop-out to short led to a double play as Michaels was running on the pitch and could not get back to first in time. Collins then followed with a double to left that scored Justice. Davis then singled home Collins to make it 8-5. The game ended when Jackson was caught looking.
Elkins pitched four innings, gave up three runs on four hits, walked two and struck out three in getting the win. Mulkey pitched three innings, gave up three runs on only one hit, walked four and fanned one.
Buchanan talked about his pitchers.
“He (Mulkey) battled and that’s what I told him when he came off the mound, ‘You didn’t have your best stuff but you battled. You gave us your best effort and that’s what we want,’ and he did that today,” Buchanan said.
“This is the first year Nick (Elkins) has really pitched and he’s throwing the ball well. We’ll continue to work on him, but he threw the ball well and threw strikes and that was what we needed when he came in.”
Michaels suffered the loss. In relief Harrison pitched five innings of four-hit ball, walked one and struck out two.
“Jay (Harrison) is a guy that has come in in middle relief for us, from day one and he has done a really good job,” Davis said. “He’s got a low ERA, his ball moves really well and when he gets out on the mound he really competes. He did a really good job over five innings.”
Myers and Parsons each had a pair of hits for Tazewell while Michaels had two doubles for the Blue Tornado to go with two walks.
Tazewell, now 7-2, hosts Bluefield tonight at Lou Peery Field with the first pitch set for 6 p.m. Richlands, 4-7, entertains Abingdon on Friday.
Tazewell..................232 010 0 — 8 10 3
Richlands.................012 000 2 — 5 6 2
Mulkey, Elkins (4) and Illig; Michaels, Harrison (3) and Carter, Laforce (3)
W-Elkins, L-Michaels, HR-None