Waddell, Hunt offense complete sweep of Firebirds
Sheldon Vick | Special to The Enterprise
Hunt third baseman Jarrett Aycock (23) tags out Firebirds courtesy runner Mason Wells to end the bottom of the fifth inning during Thursday's 3-A Big East Conference game at Southern Nash. The Warriors won 11-7 to maintain sole possession of first place.
For the second time in a week, the Hunt High varsity baseball team’s offense allowed it to remain atop the 3-A Big East Conference standings.
Using three hits each from seniors Cody Mercer and Jarrett Aycock, the Warriors also parlayed five strong innings from senior right-hander Chase Waddell into an 11-7 victory at Southern Nash on Thursday night.
The result enabled Hunt (4-4), winners of four of its last five outings, to stay unbeaten in Big East play at 4-0 by cementing the second straight sweep of a conference opponent. Southern Nash dipped to 3-3 in all games and 2-2 within Big East play.
Waddell kept the Firebirds’ potent offense at bay through five innings, allowing five hits and three runs, all earned. He struck out eight and walked three before turning the proceedings over to Aycock for the final two innings. There, Aycock allowed four hits in recording the final six outs.
Southern Nash drew closer in the sixth on a three-run homer from senior outfielder Tanner Baker, and in the seventh, picked up another run on a two-out Hunt error that scored sophomore Landen Baker. That brought the Firebirds to within the final score, but Aycock got senior Luke Coble to ground out to shortstop Blaize Keen to end it.
“He pitched well in spurts, it seemed like,” Hunt head coach Jon Smith said of Waddell. “Some innings, he kind of struggled. They swung the bat well sometimes, and then, he was able to get his breaking ball over. With his fastball locating, he pitched better. Obviously his home run was a big hit.”
Hunt’s offense produced 13 hits and used multi-run innings to build its cushion. The Warriors struck for four runs in the third, three in the fifth and four more in the top of the sixth, responding to an early deficit after Landen Baker took an 0-1, one-out offering over the fence in center field in the bottom of the first.
However, the Warriors’ offense went to work against Firebirds starter Trey Mizzelle in the third. Freshman Caleb Maddrey singled and Keen’s double to center put a pair of Hunt runners in scoring position. Getting a favorable 3-1 count against Mizzelle, Waddell hit a grounder to the first-base bag to drive in a pair to put the Warriors up 2-1.
Hunt kept the pressure on with one out via junior Jason Mercer’s run-scoring single into right field that scored Aycock, who singled. Senior Cody Mercer’s bunt single allowed freshman Nick Worrell to score, leaving the Warriors up 4-1.
Waddell effectively minimized the damage in the bottom of the third. The Firebirds, authors of nine hits, loaded the bases on a trio of one-out singles in succession by freshman Blake Strickland, Landen Baker and senior Isaiah Bland. Bland knocked in Strickland to cut the Hunt lead to 4-2, but after a full-count walk, Waddell recorded a strikeout and an unassisted grounder to junior Luke Dilda at first to end the threat.
The Warriors tacked on in the fifth. Following a one-out single from Aycock, Worrell and Mercer were plunked in consecutive plate appearances to load the bases. Aycock proceeded to score on a passed ball, while Mercer’s double into center field plated Worrell. Mercer attempted to score on the play, but was thrown out at the plate.
Sophomore Drew Wells lashed an RBI single into center field to plate Mercer, putting Hunt up 7-2. Smith credited Hunt’s approach at the plate with two outs and a more competitive demeanor even when striking out. The strikeout has been an issue for the Warriors this season, with Hunt going down on strikes seven times Thursday night.
“We have been doing a little bit better,” Smith said of Hunt’s strikeout rate. “Strikeouts are going to happen, it’s whether or not they are competitive at-bats. Early in the season, we were striking out with noncompetitive at-bats, and it seems like now even if we strike out — we had a couple tonight that were pretty quick, noncompetitive at-bats — but for the most part, guys were fouling balls off and not chasing balls out of the zone crazy and even when they strike out, it’s not a noncompetitive at-bat.”
Mizzelle was lifted after a two-out walk to Dilda. He took the loss, working 4 ⅔ innings and allowing nine hits. All seven of his runs were earned, while striking out three and walking two.
Southern Nash pulled a run back in its half of the fifth when junior Zyshone Pearce stole home, but Waddell caught courtesy runner Mason Wells on the back half of the play trying to swipe third for the final out of the inning.
Waddell aided his own cause in the sixth by launching his second homer of the year over the right-field fence, a two-run shot. Keen preceded the blast by drawing a full-count walk.
Hunt expanded the lead to 11-3 with Aycock scoring on an error from senior Cody Mercer’s bat. Mercer later scored on a Wells double to right field as part of a 2-for-4 effort.
Aycock and Mercer each had three hits for the Warriors. Waddell was 2 for 5 and drove in four runs.
Landen Baker was 3 for 3 with a double and his first-inning homer for the Firebirds.
Both teams continue Big East play next week, with Hunt beginning a two-game set with archrival Fike on Tuesday at Gilbert Ferrell Field. Southern Nash begins its Tuesday-Thursday series with Franklinton at home.
“Like I told the team, we have to play well if we expect to win against anybody,” Smith said. “If we play well, we’ve got a shot. If we don’t play well, we’re going to get beat. I know that’s cliché, but that is this team to a T. Whoever plays the game the best is probably going to win, no matter who we play.”
Score by innings:
Hunt 004 034 0 — 11
Southern Nash 101 013 1 — 7
WP-Chase Waddell 5 IP. 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 8 SO. LP-Trey Mizzelle 4 2/3 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — Hunt: Jarrett Aycock 3-5, Cody Mercer 3-3, 2B, 2 RBI, Chase Waddell 2-5, HR, 4 RBI, Drew Wells 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, Blaize Keen 1-4, 2B; Southern Nash: Landen Baker 3-3, 2B, HR, RBI, Tanner Baker 1-3, HR, 3 RBI.
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