North's eight-run fifth dooms Warriors

By Michelle Pope
STAR STAFF
mpope@starhq.com

   The Happy Valley baseball team held a 2-0 lead for the first three innings against Sullivan North Tuesday evening at Cannon-Gouge Park, but eight North runs in the top of the fifth put the Raiders in a six-run lead.
   Happy Valley scored three more in the sixth before taking the 9-6 loss.
   After the Raiders went through a scoreless first inning, Ryan Garland and Ricky Morgan got on base for Happy Valley. Todd Caldwell sent Garland home on a double.
   Tim Whaley hit a single, sending Morgan into a daring dance between third base and home. He made a dive to safety, putting two points on the board for the Warriors.
   "I don't think we started out the game very focused. Somewhere along the line, that will hurt us," said Sullivan North head coach Steve Dixon. "We'll have to come out and be focused from the start. They've got a good team. They were picked to win the league. We won it last year, and we're going to try to defend that."
   The second frame held three quick outs for both sides, as Warrior pitcher Ryan Toney threw two strikeouts. After two Happy Valley outs at first base, North pitcher Trey Mosley ended the inning with a strikeout of his own.
   In the top of the third, C.J. Hackler and Chris Eaton each got on first, but a single from third-baseman Shawn Wright (3-for-3) bounced off Hackler on the dash to third base, giving the Raiders two outs. Catcher John Yates took a walk to first to load the bases. However, Toney threw a strikeout to send his team to the plate and hold the Raiders scoreless.
   A pair of hits by Whaley and Morgan put the Warriors on base in the fourth, but the inning ended with two catches by Raider center fielder Hackler. Derrick Williams took a base for North on a walk, and Shawn Gill drove him in with a base hit for the Raiders' first point.
   The fifth inning spelled disaster for Happy Valley, as North went to the plate 12 times and scored eight runs. Eaton led off with a single, followed by a Wright bunt. Yates smacked a hit to load the bases before Toney struck out Matt Quillen for the first out.
   However, that out didn't seem to hinder the Raiders, as they kept the bases loaded and the runs pouring in, one hit at a time. The entire lineup hit singles, as Geoff Hinkle and Yates racked up two RBIs in the inning, while Williams, Chris Frazier, Shawn Gill, and Hackler collected one each.
   "We knew if we would just be patient and swing at good pitches and if we could keep hitting it hard, eventually something good would happen," said Dixon. "Baseball is a game of runs, and we made a good run right there and were able to hold on. We were a lot more patient at the plate and swung at good pitches."
   Happy Valley coach Greg Hyder sent Whaley to the mound for the last third of the fifth inning. In the bottom of the fifth, three outs to North first-baseman Williams dashed the hopes of a quick retaliation by the Warriors.
   "We played pretty good for one or two innings and then we quit," Hyder said. "They put the ball in play, we made mistakes, and they got a couple runs down. We couldn't field them and just dug a hole and couldn't get out of it."
   Happy Valley wouldn't stay down for long. In the bottom of the sixth, the Warriors mimicked the Raiders' fifth inning, almost batting all the way around, and getting six hits from eight batters. Left-fielder Drew Davis, center fielder Garland, and shortstop Morgan sent their teammates home for three more runs to make the score 9-6. The Raiders sent Matt Hanson to the mound for the save after two outs.
   "They had a huge inning," Hyder said. "We were up three to one and going pretty good, and then had a little adversity and just folded. Ryan might have gotten a little tired. He's just out of basketball, and the pitch count was a little bit up. I was just trying to get him to pitch through five innings so I could bring another kid in at the end of the game."
   Happy Valley second-baseman Will Lowe went 3-for-3 with two singles, a double and a ribbie. Morgan hit three singles from four at-bats and also had an RBI. Hinkle, Gill, and Yates each sent two runners home for Sullivan North.
   "They played pretty well - that pitcher was pretty good," Hyder said. "They put the ball in play and we didn't make plays. We'll learn from it and move on. That's the only choice we have."