By Rick Sheek
The Junior Bulldogs closed the regular season in resounding fashion, yet their coach wasn’t the least impressed.
Hampton pounded visiting Cloudland 11-0 on Monday in Little Watauga Conference action. The affair, interrupted by a lighting delay, was called after three and a half innings due to the slaughter rule.
“We can play better, a lot better,” Hampton coach Greg VanTassell said. “We should have played better.”
The Highlanders only recorded one victory this spring. The tournament begins later this week, with the opening-round locations and dates yet to be determined.
“Obviously, I don’t think that team’s 11 runs better than us,” said Cloudland coach Jonathan Cotton, filling in for an ailing Robbie Turbyfill. “Our guys, we have yet to play a full ball game here. We’ve got to get off the bus ready to play.”
Wyatt Lyons hurled the first two innings for the Bulldogs (16-5, 7-3). He was touched for one hit and struck out five.
Dru Owens was on the mound the final two innings. He fanned three.
“Pitching was good,” VanTassell said. “Pitchers threw strikes. Wyatt and Dru threw strikes, and that was important. Pitching was there all day.”
Brinkley Mull lasted 2 1/3 innings for Cloudland. He yielded seven hits, seven earned runs, fanned three and walked five.
Southpaw T.J. Hicks struck out the two batters he faced in closing.
“At the end there, T.J. looked good,” Cotton said. “We hustled a little bit after the rain delay, but it was too little too late. We’ve just got to get out and put our foot on the gas pedal, not ride the brakes.”
Hampton’s Brenden Ailport batted 2 for 2 with two RBIs. Dalton Blair was 2 for 4.
Jacob Byrd plated two runs. Lyons stole two bases.
“We should have had better at-bats,” VanTassell said. “We should have been more aggressive. We missed signs. We’ve got to get better.”
Davis registered two steals.
The Bulldogs surged to an 8-0 advantage in the first inning. Austin Vines led off with a double.
A runner crossed on a passed ball and Byrd delivered a two-run single.
A run was walked in. Owens and Ailport each belted run-scoring singles, before that early flurry ended with a pair of scores taking place due to wild pitches.
Davis singled in the second, advanced on a wild pitch and stole third base. He was stranded.
The Highlanders left two on that at-bat, after Lyons escaped with three consecutive strikeouts.
Owens and Ailport again rapped run-scoring singles in the bottom half.
In the third, Chris Holtsclaw was walked, stole second, advanced on an error and crossed on a wild pitch to complete the onslaught. That’s when the lightning struck, forcing the mandatory half-hour delay.
Davis reached by error in the fourth and stole second. He had advanced to third on the second out, before being left on.
“We’re looking for our second win,” Cotton said. “We’ve got to come ready to play baseball. We make errors and let teams get ahead of us. Get down, it’s hard to come back when you’ve dug yourself that hole.”