By Rick Sheek
Hampton’s baseball team carries a two-game win streak into the District 1-A tournament.
The Bulldogs are on a roll after disposing of visiting Cloudland 11-1 in Saturday’s play-in game.
“We’re playing as good as we can play right now,” Hampton coach Matthew Hardin said. “As a coach, you don’t always have the greatest athletes and you don’t always have a bunch of upperclassmen — but you want to be playing the best that you can play at the end of the season. If you’re playing really great at the first of the season and then you don’t ever get any better … you want to improve the whole season, and be playing the best you can play at the end of the season.”
The Bulldogs, after recording their fourth victory, travel to top seed North Greene on Monday. First pitch is 7:15 p.m.
Hampton rapped 14 hits and didn’t commit an error. Jeffrey Hughis scattered nine hits, the run was unearned and he struck out 11 with a walk and wild pitch.
Mark Ailport and Taylor Edwards each batted 3 for 4. Going 2 for 4 were David Finney, Hughis and Stone Hutchinson.
Cloudland’s Zach Shell went 2 for 2. On the mound he yielded nine earned runs and walked one with two wild pitches and a pair of hit batters.
Going 2 for 3 were Hunter Nelson, Devin Whitehead and Curtis Hitechew.
“Probably the best offensive game we’ve played all year,” Cloudland coach Kevin Kendall said. “We just couldn’t get them home when we needed to. We’ve struggled all year. We’ve been very under-manned this year.”
It was 10-1 in the sixth inning when Edwards led off with a single. He stole second base, advanced on a wild pitch, before Hutchinson’s run-scoring single with none out forced the slaughter rule.
“That’s just how it goes,” Kendall said. “We didn’t have a lot of depth, but they played hard. We didn’t win a ball game, and they came every day and tried to get better.
“I told them that meant a lot to me. I’ve had a good time with these boys this year. Although we didn’t get any wins, they had the right attitude and hopefully they showed the younger kids how to play baseball.”
Henegar stole home in the second to give Hampton the early lead. A passed ball plated a Highlander in the third to tie the contest.
The Bulldogs surged to a 7-1 advantage in the bottom half. Edwards unleashed a run-scoring triple, Hutchinson tagged a run-scoring single, Ailport delivered a run-scoring triple, Finney hit a run-scoring single and Hughes completed the flurry with a run-scoring double.
In the third, Hampton right fielder T.J. Hicks gunned down a baserunner at third. The Highlanders stranded two.
Cloudland also left two runners on in scoring position in the fifth and sixth.
Anthony Oliver led off for the Bulldogs in the fifth with a triple. Henegar, Finney and Hutchinson each drove in scores.
“In baseball, anything can happen,” Hardin said. “If you’re mentally ready to play, anything can happen. If you’re not mentally ready to play, anything can happen.
“I’m going down there with the intention that we’re going to play the best baseball we can possibly play, and let the chips fall where they may.”
Henegar stole three bases. Finney recorded two steals.
“Good luck to Hampton,” Kendall said. “They’re a good hitting team.”
Cloudland 001 000 — 1 9 2
Hampton 016 031 — 11 14 0
Shell and Whitehead. Hughis and Clawson. W—Hughis. L—Shell.