By Rick Sheek
Jeffery Hughis hurled a gem, and Hampton’s baseball team unleashed a sufficient amount of firepower at the plate.
The visiting Bulldogs disposed of winless Cloudland 10-0 in Tuesday’s Watauga Valley Conference action.
“The first two or three innings, I was real happy with the approach they took to the plate,” Hampton coach Matthew Hardin said of his players. “They went for pitches they could hit hard, and hit the ball hard. There were several balls we hit that were smoked, but just right at somebody.
“They lost their focus a little bit there in the fourth and fifth inning, especially at the plate. They started swinging at things they shouldn’t swing at.”
It was only the Bulldogs’ second victory of the season, both in this matchup.
“Our pitcher pitched all right,” Cloudland coach Kevin Kendall said. “The last two innings we played pretty good. The first three we had some errors, made some mistakes and they hit the ball well.
“If we can ever have a complete game, start to finish, we’d be tough.”
The two hits Hughies surrendured were an infield squibbler and and a blooper to the outfield. He struck out seven with no walks.
“He stayed down there on 12 pitches an inning,” Hardin said. “You can’t ask any more from a kid than that, and kicking the ball down the strike zone. Only had two fly balls all day, and both of them were on curve balls.”
Cloudland’s Brent Hyden was roughed up for 13 hits. He allowed five earned runs and walked three.
Hampton’s Taylor Edwards and David Finney each batted 4 for 4. Edwards drove in three runs and stole two bases.
Mark Ailport went 3 for 4 with a pair of stolen bases. The Bulldogs rapped 13 hits and were errorless in the field.
“We’ve just got to learn to maintain discipline all the way through the game, as far as our hitting is concerned,” Hardin said. “Even when you do have the lead, still yet you want to put pressure on the other team.”
Ailport led the game off with a double. Finney also doubled in the first.
Hampton jumped out to a 3-0 advantage. Tristian Robinson plated a score and a pair of runners crossed on errors.
The Bulldogs stranded three in the second, but not before Edwards’ run-scoring single made it 4-0.
Hampton went up 9-0 in third. Dallas Clawson and T.J. Hicks knocked in runs, an error plated a run, before Finney’s run-scoring single and Edwards’ run-scoring double.
“We play good in spots, and then real bad in other spots,” Kendall said. “If we can every have a complete game all the way, we’ll be all right.”
Hughis lost his perfect game bid in the third when he hit a batter. The infield single in the fourth, beat out off the bat of Colby Gwyn, broke up the no-hitter.
The Highlanders were retired that inning on a double play. Second baseman Ty Robinson tossed to shortstop Stone Hutchinson, who fired to Edwards at first.
Hampton’s Anthony Oliver had singled in the fourth and stole second, but was left on. The onslaught was completed in the fifth when Finney singled, stole second and was singled in by Edwards.
“They have improved so much from last year to this year,” Hardin said. “Just light years ahead of where they were last year this time. They still have to keep working and get better.
“It’s a learning process. They’re starting to eliminate the mistakes that they made at the first of the year. Hopefully we can get in the tournament, play well there and give us something to build on for next year.”
With two out in the fourth, Asley Haynes lofted a ball into shallow right field, before a fielder’s choice saw two Highlanders on base for the first time of the afternoon.
Hughis then recorded a strikeout to end the affair.
“We don’t have hitting in bunches,” Kendall said. “Our hitting is real spread out. The top three will get one and the middle won’t hit one.
“The bottom three will get two and then the top won’t get one. They all hit occasionally, but if we’d all hit together we’d be OK.”
Hampton 315 01 — 10 13 0
Cloudland 000 00 — 0 2 4
Hughis and Clawson. Hyden and Shell. W—Hughis. L— Hyden.