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Hunt High varsity baseball coaches and several players needed only a couple of innings to confirm a common suspicion — six runs were not enough.
The Warriors constructed a 6-0 lead after two innings but left the bases loaded in each of the first three innings and pesky South Granville chopped the deficit to 6-5 and 7-6 before Hunt registered a 10-6 working margin and walked off in the bottom of the sixth inning via the mercy rule, a 16-6 victor in its first of three scheduled appearances in the sixth annual Golden Leaf Invitational high school baseball tournament in Fleming Stadium on a chilly Saturday evening.
Hunt of the 3-A Big East Conference boosted its record to 14-4 in claiming a slugfest that produced not only 22 runs but 25 hits (14 by the Warriors). The 2-A Vikings of the 1-A/2-A Northern Carolina Conference departed 8-10.
But stranding nine base runners the first three innings worried Hunt head coach Jon Smith.
“I was pleased with the way we hit it,” Smith assured, “and I was happy we had six runs. But we should have had 10 or 12.
“South Granville is used to winning and they’re not going away. They’re going to play you tough. Even though they were down 6-0, the momentum had shifted (in the Vikings’ favor).”
Added junior third baseman Tyson Bass, a definite Hunt offensive force: “I didn’t think six runs were enough. They hit the ball well; they were barreling everything up.”
The Warriors capitalized on two Vikings errors the first inning — when second baseman Blaize Keen doubled and drew a bases-loaded walk and starting pitcher Jarrett Aycock and center fielder Trey Dail each singled. First baseman Caleb Davis added a sacrifice fly and starting South Granville pitcher Drew Shamer, the loser, issued two walks and hit a batter.
Bass doubled, stole third base and eventually scored on a bases-loaded walk to Davis in the second.
With the aid of defensive gems from Dail and Bass, Aycock, a right-hander, squirmed out of jams each of the first two innings.
But center fielder Justin Bullock’s run-scoring triple keyed South Granville’s two-run third. The Vikings chased Aycock with three runs in the fifth, whittling the deficit to 6-5. Catcher Josh Edwards laced a double. After an unearned run, Hunt right-hander Blake Daniels, the winner, finally squelched the uprising.
Hunt got a run back its half of the fourth on a walk and Keen’s double. However, designated hitter Nick Kilduff doubled and trotted home on right fielder Bailey Watkins’ sacrifice fly in the fifth, and the Vikings trailed 7-6.
In the bottom of the fifth, Dail and shotstop Gavin Huff doubled in succession, and Daniels and Davis followed with back-to-back singles. Hunt extended its lead to 10-6.
Huff relieved Daniels in the top of the sixth and worked out of a bases-loaded jam.
Catcher Chase Waddell, Aycock, Dail and Huff each singled in the six-run spree in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs, the Warriors walked off with two runs on wild pitches.
Of his pitching usage, Smith noted: “I was trying to get out of here with a win with what I had. Jarrett threw the ball better — that was a positive. Blake threw well again. We want to have Gavin and Tyson back for Monday and Tuesday. (Hunt pitchers) are all young and, the more I can get them out there, the better.”
Bass and his teammates were encouraged with the spring break outcome.
“We haven’t been playing well lately,” Bass said. “We came out and hit the ball a little better. We’ve still got stuff to work on.
“We are trying to come out and win all three (tournament) games and enjoy the rest of spring break. Then, we’ll come back next week and get right back at it.”
Score by innings:
South Granville 002 310 — 6
Hunt 510 136 — 16
WP-Blake Daniels (4-1) 1 2/3 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 SO. LP-Drew Shamer.
LEADING HITTERS — South Granville: Dakota May 2-3, 2 R, RBI; Justin Bullock 2-2, 3B, 2 R, RBI; Nick Kilduff 2-4, 2B, RBI, Keith Gardner 1-3, 2B; Josh Edwards 1-3, 2B. Hunt: Blaize Keen 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Tyson Bass 2-3, 2B, 4 R; Jarrett Aycock 1-3, 2 RBI, 2 R; Trey Dail 3-4, 2B, 4 RBI, 3 R; Gavin Huff 2-4, 2B, 2 R, RBI; Blake Daniels 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI.