Longhorns shell  Bulldogs, 21-8

By Matt Hill

   Around 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, a light drizzle began to fall at Hampton's baseball field.
   About that same time, it started to pour Johnson County runs.
   The Longhorns scored nine runs in the first inning en route to a convincing 21-8 triumph over the Hampton Bulldogs in Watauga Conference baseball action.
   "That's what we want to do," Johnson County head coach Pete Pavusek said. "The last few games of the season we're going to try and jump out early and put a few runs on the board. Then see what our defense can do, and allow our pitchers to pitch with a lead, rather than having to pitch from behind all the time.
   The Longhorns set the tone in that first inning, as 13 men came to the plate.
   Johnson County took advantage of some walks, and got some timely hits from Junior Paisley, Adam Johnson, Judd Townsend, Jonathan Westphal, Adam Leonard and Michael Reid to bring about the big inning.
   The Longhorns finished the afternoon with 15 hits.
   The Longhorns had been in a hitting slump, but showed no signs of it against the Bulldogs.
   "Today we came out of it," Reid said, who had three hits on the day. "Hopefully, we can keep it up."
   This is the second time this season that the Longhorns have scored over twenty runs against the Bulldogs, and the boys from Mountain City have earned the respect of Hampton head coach Scotty Bunton.
   "By far," Bunton said when asked if Johnson County was the best hitting team in the Watauga Conference. "They hit it better than anybody against us. They've seen three different pitchers, and they've hit them all. So far they've put the bat on it much, much better than anybody else we've faced."
   Bunton believes that the 'Horns big first inning was due to having confidence.
   "A lot of that's confidence," Bunton said. "They have a lot of confidence. They play us well all the time anyway."
   The Longhorns' other big innings came in the third and fifth, when they scored six in third and five in the fifth to pretty much seal the deal.
   Johnson County scored those six runs in the third on only two hits, but had five hits in the fifth.
   "We came out hitting it real well," Pavusek said. "We had a few letdowns there in the middle innings. I wish we could have hit a little better with runners in scoring position with two outs. That's coming through in the clutch, and we'll get there one of these days."
   There was a little light at the end of the tunnel for the Bulldogs, as they had a fourth inning rally in which they scored three runs to cut the Johnson County lead down to 16-8 before the Longhorns exploded again in the fifth.
   Josh Moss, Kevin Harrison and Ryan Deskins all came up big for Hampton in that inning.
   "Those were our kids that were hitting," Bunton said. "They came through the part of the lineup where the kids were hitting the ball pretty well. We should be able to score with those, but we've got to have the other people on the bottom of the order on base and scoring some runs for us if we're going to be competitive."
   Pavusek emptied his bench late, as it was a total team effort for Johnson County in this contest.
   "That's always been a big thing that I have liked to do since I've been coaching here at Johnson County," Pavusek said. "I try to give everybody a chance, and hope that we can jump out early. That gives us an opportunity to get kids in the ball game that don't necessarily get to play a whole lot. It gives them a chance to be successful."
   Westphal pitched a nice game for the Longhorns, as he ended up getting the win.
   In addition to Reid's performance, Paisley, Westphal and Townsend each had two hits for the Longhorns. Townsend did have a solo home run in the second.
   Moss, Harrison and Deskins all had two hits for Hampton.
   The Longhorns suffered tough losses to Unicoi County and Elizabethton last week, and Reid felt a sense of urgency going into Tuesday's contest.
   "It's real important," Reid said. "As you know we've been in a slump. It's a big boost for us."
   The Bulldogs are now trying to get ready for the District 1-AA tournament, and they hope they can get back to playing the competitive baseball that has been produced the last couple of weeks.
   "That's what we're pointing to right now," Bunton said. "We hope to get both of our pitchers healthy, and maybe we can sneak up on somebody."