Avery County, 'Landers split backyard brawl

By Wes Holtsclaw

   It's almost like the Hatfields and the McCoys when you get Cloudland and Avery County (N.C.) together.
   The rain-drenched doubleheader on Saturday favored both neighbors as Cloudland took the first contest 8-6, while Avery took advantage of some 'Lander miscues with a 7-3 victory on Highlander Field.
   Josh Johnson won the first decision over Ricky Spradling with a nine-strikeout outing, while Mark Byrd took the save after a 12-strikeout outing against North Greene on Thursday. Spradling tossed seven out for the Vikings.
   "We played well," said Cloudland coach Robbie Turbyfill. "Josh pitched well and his curveball was working good. He threw more pitches than I wanted him to, but we played good all around. I thought everybody played well."
   Cloudland got their offense rolling early in the first contest, as Mark Byrd and Mark Barnett used singles to set up a two-RBI single from Dale Baker.
   The 'Landers got going again in the second inning as Johnson doubled Aaron Stocton and Cole Gouge doubled Johnson. A Barnett single put Gouge across the plate as Cloudland took a 5-0 lead.
   Cloudland's defense continued to oust the Vikings behind Johnson's mound presence through four innings. Offensively, it allowed Byrd and Barnett to pave the way for a two-run double from Baker.
   Avery County got on the board after a Charles Flanagan single, when Zack Burnop sent an errored shot past the 'Lander shortstop to halt the shutout.
   Josh Johnson followed things up for Cloudland, singling Dakota Benfield across the plate, but the 'Landers would have their hands full in the next frame.
   Avery County opened up with a Jimmy Bailiff single, which was followed by a crushing RBI double from Josh Aldridge. A Flanagan walk set up Ricky Spradling, who sent two runners across the plate with his single.
   The Vikings continued to tear apart the scoreboard as Sam Phillips walked, letting Brandon Watson score two more runs with his double.
   The 'Landers backed out of the corner and put the stop on Avery County, holding on to take the 8-6 win.
   "We did good and didn't have any errors in the field," said 'Lander first baseman Dale Baker. "We hit the ball better than we usually do. We're coming along and hopefully we can do better."
   The red and black wouldn't let the same miscues effect them in the second game, as they opened with back-to-back homeruns from Sam Phillips and Zack Burnop.
   Cloudland struck right back after a walk to Byrd, when Mark Barnett crushed a ball for the Highlanders.
   Aldridge and Spradling opened the second inning with singles for the Vikings, before a Watson single put both teammates across to take the 4-2 lead.
   The 'Landers got two runners on base early in their frame, but two straight putouts from Viking catcher Sam Phillips at third base hurt Cloudland.
   Avery County continued their scoring ways in the third inning as davis and Bailiff scored on a Flanagan double. Aldridge scored Flanagan on a fielders choice to give Avery a five run swing.
   The 'Landers scored at the bottom of the fourth when Clint Steiner brought Dale Baker across the plate with a single. But the rain became too much as Avery won in four innings.
   Spradling took the win in the second game, while Cole Gouge took the loss for Cloudland.
   "They did a good job hitting off of Cole," Turbyfill said. "He threw strikes at them. But the first game, we all hit the ball well. We had a couple back-to-back doubles."
   The 'Landers play Unaka next week on the creek in their second conference meeting of the season.