Happy Valley succumbs to Central

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR CORRESPONDENT

   The Happy Valley Warriors attempted to defend the homefront on Thursday but they were unsuccessful in the heat of battle, losing to Sullivan Central 14-2 at Cannon-Gouge Park.
   "We hit the ball hard today, but we just hit it right at them," said Happy Valley assistant coach Mike Baer. "Our guys still battled hard. For that I'm proud of them."
   The first inning had very little action with just one hit coming from Sullivan Central's Shane Benderman.
   The Cougars turned up the wick in the second frame by scoring a run to jump out to an early lead.
   A single from Dustin Cox to left field drove home Josh O'dell to get the momentum started for Central.
   In the third frame the Cougars raised the intensity, when Benderman ripped a hit up the middle to bring in Daniel Shelton.
   Another run came after a fielder's choice from O'dell allowed Benderman to cross the plate.
   "With the Cougars having success at the plate, it was a different story for the Warriors , who were not able to get more than a hit in each of the first three frames.
   "You've got to go up their wanting to hit, thinking you can hit," Baer said. "If you go up there thinking you can't, then you won't."
   Things started to unravel in the fourth frame for the Warriors as they gave up three hits, one errors and two walks.
   "We've been working on our hitting for the last couple of weeks, and the kids are really coming around," said Sullivan Central coach Brandon Krantz.
   The Cougars added to their lead when bases were loaded and Shannon Buchanan walked batter Chris Moore to score Phillip Benfield.
   Before the inning was over, the Cougars accumulated a total of six runs to stretch out to a 9-0 lead.
   The last two runs came when Tim Whaley came in to replace Buchanan at the mound.
   The first run came off of a wild pitch that enabled Benderman to come home, and the second one was scored from a sacrifice fly by O'dell, plating Garrett McConnell.
   The Warrior offense didn't produce like they had hoped, as they only had two hits leading up to the fifth frame.
   "Our kids have stepped up defensively and in all phases of the game, and our goal was to get better every game. We've done that," said Krantz.
   Finally, Happy Valley got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth.
   A shot to right field from Shaun Baer produced a double, putting the runner in scoring position.
   Following Baer was Cody Cannon, who slammed a home run over the left centerfield fence to give the Warriors their first and only scores of the contest.
   In the last frame, the Cougars added insult to injury, as they acquired five more runs on four hits.
   "We put the ball in play, and good things are going to happen to you when you do that and play good defense," said Krantz.
   The last two runs were batted in when Shelton knocked a triple, that fell short of Lamar Rollins out stretched hand to bring in Cox and Brian Jackson.
   "Right now we're not hitting the baseball and we're mired in a slump," said Baer. "We're popping out fly balls, and not putting it on the ground to force them to make plays."