Golden Raiders too much for Happy Valley

By Marvin Birchfield

   After an impressive opener against Unaka, the Happy Valley Warriors set their sights on their first Watauga Conference action with Sullivan North on Friday.
   The outcome was a little different this time around, as the Golden Raiders handed the Warriors their first loss of the season by a final of 6-3.
   Happy Valley did not only lose the game in this contest, but also senior Cody Whitlock, who collided with teammate Ryan Garland in the outfield.
   "For six innings we were in it with a chance to win, then we were dealt a terrible blow in the seventh, which just put us down," said Happy Valley coach Greg Hyder.
   Sullivan North captured a score in the first inning, after two errors were committed by the Warriors.
   Alex Bowling came across the plate for the Raiders when a throw went past the first baseman, enabling him to score.
   Michael Holmes was strong at the mound for the Warriors in the first three innings, as he struck out eight of the first 12 batters faced.
   "I thought we had some good pitching, but we didn't make our play at times and that's a key. You can't give people the opportunities and you have to make the outs," said Hyder.
   Happy Valley captured its first hit in the third inning as Todd Caldwell knocked a looper that curved toward the left-field line.
   Sullivan North catcher John Yates picked off Caldwell, as he was caught trying to steal in between first and second base.
   "We have struggled at times with our infield, but today we made the plays, and our pitching was good along with hitting the ball well," said Sullivan North coach Steve Dixon.
   The Raiders scored their second run of the game in the top of the fourth, when Yates smacked a home run to left field.
   The Warriors rallied in the bottom of the frame off of an error and three straight hits to grab the lead at 3-2.
   It started when Ryan Toney made it to first base, after an error off a throw.
   Cody Cannon followed up with a single to left field, which brought home Toney for the Warriors' first score.
   "We came out and wanted to win this game to show everybody that we can compete for the conference, and Holmes did a good job pitching, but we just didn't bring our sticks with us," said Cannon.
   Tim Whaley knocked in the next run with a hard shot to center field that was just shy of being a home run to score pinch-runner Lamar Rollins.
   The last run of the frame came, when Jordy Harrison hit the ball into shallow left-field to bring in Whaley.
   Holmes walked the first North batter in the top of the fifth frame, where it put Kevin Arnold in position to make a steal for second-base.
   A heads up play from Cannon resulted in his second pick-off from home plate, which limited the Raiders' chances of scoring.
   "Michael struggled a little in a couple of innings, and he gave me a position to make a couple of plays for him, and that's what seniors are suppose to do," said Cannon.
   Sullivan North did come back strong in the sixth frame, as they captured three straight hits, and scored two run to regain the lead.
   "We've been struggling at the plate. We've had scrimmages rained out and just started seeing pitches last week, but we hung in there," said Dixon.
   A shot to left field past the third baseman scored pinch-runner T.J. Blakley, and an error off a throw to first base, which would have been the third out, allowed Chandler Odom to cross the plate.
   The Warriors didn't have any response at the plate in the last three frames, as they went 0-9 which was partly credited to pitcher Brandon Summey.
   "We just had to come out and be prepared for we practiced hard all week, and I give credit to my teammates. They battled back after we fell behind," said Summey.
   Summey allowed just four hits throughout the contest, three of which came in the fourth inning alone.
   "We got down, and hopefully we didn't give up, for we had some big hits, and once we grabbed the lead I knew we was in command," said Summey.
   In the last frame of play, disaster struck for the Warriors when Cody Whitlock tangled with Ryan Garland, as they were both going for a ball hit in the gap between center and right field.
   This brought a halt to the contest, after two runs scored from it with Lance Carter and Matt Ball crossing the plate.
   It's not known to the extent of Whitlock's injury, but the Warriors were unable to recover at that point, as Sullivan North went on to hand Happy Valley its first loss.