TAZEWELL, Va. —
Chase Illig developed his potent swing by setting a Bluefield Little League career record for home runs with 21.
Illig, who is now a sophomore, is still making contact at the plate, and is glad to be doing it for Tazewell after transferring from Bluefield while in middle school.
“It has been a great experience,” Illig said. “We have a great tradition here at Tazewell.”
Illig went on to credit the entire Tazewell coaching staff, and they were certainly happy with him on Thursday night, as Illig collected four hits to lead the Bulldogs’ 13-hit attack to defeat Carroll County 7-3 in a Southwest District affair at Lou Peery Field.
Tazewell (3-6, 1-1) secured its first SWD win of the season, led by hits from eight of nine batters in the lineup, while Brett Jones was outstanding in a five-hit effort on the mound.
“For us it is just nice to get a win,” Tazewell head coach Lou Peery said. “We finally got some key hits and put the ball in play and got a real fine pitching job out of Brett Jones.
“This is the first complete game we have had all year. I am glad he is a big old strong boy and he came through for us.”
Illig was joined with multiple hits by Brett Powers, who had two singles and three runs batted in, while freshman Lucas Parsons, who was batting ninth in the lineup, had two hits, drove in a run and drove one more.
All that brought a smile to Peery, especially the production from the bottom four in the lineup that had four hits and scored three runs.
“Anytime you hit the ball you have got a chance to be in the ball game,” Peery said. “If you take a little pressure off your pitcher you don’t have to be so fine and your defense can be more relaxed too.
“They did come through, especially the lower half (of the lineup). Most of them didn’t have a .125 batting average, but they came through and raised it a little bit.”
Carroll County (5-5, 1-1), which made what could be its last trip to Tazewell, fell behind 3-0, committed three errors and scored runs on two errors and a wild pitch.
“Anytime we come to Tazewell to play both teams show up and it was a good ball game to watch,” said Carroll County head coach Joe Tompkins, whose Cavaliers will be competing with Roanoke-area schools such as Hidden Valley, Cave Spring and Pulaski County next season. “We just didn’t hit the ball when we need to make some errors in a bad place, but they hit the ball well.”
Tazewell jumped on Carroll County starter Seth Burris in the second, with freshman Mason Turner collecting a one-out single from the sixth spot in the lineup. Tyler Myers followed with a single, and Parsons collected a two-out single to center for the 1-0 lead.
Colin Hancock then connected on a single to left to score two more runs.
That was the type of performance that Peery has been expecting from his young team.
“We have felt good the whole year,” Peery said. “We just know they have a lot of learning to do and a lot of confidence in themselves so hopefully this is a confidence builder.”
It was more of the same in the third with the Bulldogs answering a Carroll County unearned run with a two more runs of their own, with Illig _ who hit a long double in the first inning _ reaching on a popup in the infield that the Cavaliers lost in the lights.
“He has been working on away, away, away because that is all they pitch to him,” Peery said. “He got a couple he could turn on, but he dropped his shoulder and popped that one up, but he still got on base.”
Jones followed with a double, and Powers slugged a single to left to bring home two runs.
That was more than enough for Jones, who used a fastball and curveball combination to limit the Cavaliers to five hits, with two more runs scoring in the third on an error and wild pitch. He struck out six, walked three and worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth.
No one had a better view of Jones on the mound than Illig, who is also the Tazewell catcher.
“He looked good, probably the best outing he has had all year,” Illig said. “His breaking stuff was moving, he had good life on his fastball. He threw well.”
Tazewell added two more runs in the fourth on a triple to the left field fence by Brody Dean, a line drive to center that Illig hustled into a double, and Powers followed with another single to for the final runs of the game.
Illig led all batters with two doubles and two singles, including a long double in the first inning that carried all the way to deepest part of the park.
“I was just waiting for a good pitch to hit,” Illig said. “He decided he was going to hang me a curve ball and I was able to hit it.”
Carroll County was led at the plate by Kenley Meredith, who had two singles.
“We are young and we have got to keep improving every game,” Tompkins said. “This could be our last trip up here, we are going to miss it, but we don’t have any choice about the matter.”
Tazewell will return to the diamond on Tuesday at Abingdon, followed by a visit from archrival Richlands on Thursday. Both are key SWD contests, but Peery is just happy to be playing ball.
“I am just glad the weather is good enough that we can get out on the field and keep going,” Peery said. “District play or Mount View, Bluefield whoever, we try to take the same approach, we have got to hit, field and pitch.”
Do that and Illig thinks Bulldogs could be tough to beat in the Southwest District.
“We have been making huge leaps through the year and I believe we can beat any team in the district,” Illig said. “We can compete in the district this year, next year and the year following. “We are young, but we are talented.”
Tompkins expects the final SWD race to be memorable.
“This year is pretty wide open,” Tompkins said. “It is going to be interesting.”
The Tazewell junior varsity squad also won, defeating the Cavaliers 8-5.
— Contact Brian Woodson at firstname.lastname@example.org
At Lou Peery Field
Carroll County……......….001 200 0 — 3 5 2
Tazewell………….....…….032 200 x — 7 13 4
Seth Burris, Josh Underwood (3) and Reece Edwards. Brett Jones and Chase Illig. W-Jones; L-Burris. HR-none.