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Friday night’s 3-A Big East Conference varsity baseball rematch between visiting Hunt and Southern Nash opened with Firebirds starting pitcher A.J. Jones retiring the first two Warriors batters and quickly working the count to two strikes to junior Tyson Bass, Hunt’s No. 3 hitter.
But before third out was recorded, conference-leading Hunt plated 10 (yes, 10) runs, sending 15 batters to the plate, en route to a 21-1 debacle stopped after five innings because of the mercy rule.
The Warriors tagged five Southern Nash pitchers for 13 hits and benefited from five hit batters and seven Firebirds errors in climbing to 4-0 in the conference and to 10-1 overall. The Firebirds yielded 17 unearned runs. The second loss of the week to the Warriors left Southern Nash at 1-3 and 4-8, respectively.
“I didn’t see it coming but I’m glad to see it,” said Hunt head coach Jon Smith. “They misplayed a couple of balls. We had a hit here and there; then a couple of home runs and its 6-0. Then it became nine, then 10.
“Baseball is a crazy game. It’s surely not indicative of the competitiveness of the teams.”
On the two-strike count, Bass rapped a single and raced home on first baseman Jarrett Aycock’s double. Then came three Southern Nash errors and a hit batsman. Senior catcher Chase Waddell slugged a three-run home run and Bass, the winning pitcher, followed with a solo blast. Second baseman Patrick Clark and third baseman Blaize Keen also hit safely.
Nine of the runs were unearned against the luckless Jones.
“That’s pretty much been the story of our season,” lamented Southern Nash head coach Todd Brewer. “You’ve got to find a way to make a play and get an out. We have been fighting all year to find a way to not let it get a away from us.”
The Warriors also batted around (10 hitters) in the six-run third and scored in every inning but the second. Bass capped a huge evening with three hits. Keen also rapped three hits and Waddell slammed a pair.
Bass got the mound start and blanked the Firebirds on three hits and a walk while striking out six in 2 2/3 innings. The win was his fourth without a loss.
Right-handers Christian Phaby and Caleb Davis followed Bass to the mound.
The Firebirds, who got a double each from Jason Montague and Isaiah Bland, averted a shutout in the bottom of the fifth when Phaby, in his first 2019 mound appearance, and Davis issued four consecutive walks. The Firebirds’ Jackson Thorton drew the bases-filled walk before Davis induced a game-ending double play.
All Hunt players saw action in a contest that amplified the decision of Phaby, who has signed a football scholarship with Barton College, to play baseball his final Hunt year.
Of Hunt’s impressive 2019 start going into next week’s two-game set against second-place archrival Fike, Phaby responded: “It looks good on the scoreboard. But we are not satisfied yet; we’ve got to keep playing.”
Because, as Smith noted: “I guess we locked up fifth place.”