Warriors get past 'Landers

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR CORRESPONDENT

   One inning was all it took.
   With five opening runs against a shaken pitcher with an unhelping defense, the Happy Valley Warriors held on after a strong first inning to take a 5-2 victory over the Cloudland Highlanders at Cloudland Park on Monday afternoon.
   "I thought we came out on fire," said Warrior coach Greg Hyder. "We lost it in the middle against Byrd, he's tough. We made a couple plays in the field, and there at the end. I'm not real happy with the effort, but we got good pitching out of a freshman (Ryan Toney) right there.
   "It's tough, I thought the umpire was inconsistent both ways behind the plate. So you know, that's all I can say. It's tough on a freshman to go out there when you throw a one and one pitch and its there, and the next pitch, it's not. I don't know what to tell him, but he battled through it and I'm proud of him."
   Said Cloudland coach Jeff Bradley: "We handed them the ballgame. I'm proud of the boys -- they did a good job -- but we gave it away in the first inning. It's as simple as that."
   Happy Valley opened up the game with two walks from Josh Johnson, and a hit from Cody Cannon scored Lamar Rollins and Tim Whaley. Cannon scored on a mishandled Daniel Bach shot. Bach and Joe Howell scored to finish the inning at 5-0 Happy Valley.
   Cloudland was held in the first inning by good defense from Warriors' Whaley and Howell. Johnson pitched one more inning for Cloudland, shutting out Happy Valley before Mark Byrd took over on the mound.
   Byrd pitched a strong three innings, striking out three and allowing no hits in his time on the mound. With the defensive support shutting the Warriors down, the Cloudland offense was still at a dry spell.
   However, the 'Landers got on board in the first inning as a Caleb Denton single was followed up by a Mark Barnett RBI single, scoring Denton and closing the gap on Happy Valley.
   Denton took the mound at the sixth inning, and with tough Highlander defense, pushed back the charging Warrior storm.
   Cloudland had a strong fifth and sixth inning behind the bats. Two batters were left on base in the fifth, while Cloudland left the bases loaded with a good performance. Cloudland halted the Warrior charge, and came back hard in the seventh.
   Byrd scored on a T.J. Lunsford pop out early in the seventh, as Cloudland proceeded to place some runners on base after a Denton hit and a walk to James Gardner, bringing the possible tying run to the plate.
   But Happy Valley was too strong, as they held onto a 5-2 win.
   Defense was the key for the Warriors throughout most of the game, as they held Cloudland runners on base several times.
   "We did some good things," said Hyder. "I don't think we made any errors. We rolled a couple double plays and made some big plays there in the field. But Cloudland's a lot better than they were. They were a lot better than they were the last time we played them, and that's shown by them beating some people in our conference.
   "When we played them earlier in the year, they didn't have a lot for us. Today, they played well and I knew they would before we come up here. They beat Johnson County a couple of times, and that's tough wins and they picked them up, so we're gonna leave here with the win and be happy about it."
   Coach Hyder believes his team must pick up the tempo before a big conference game at Hampton tomorrow evening.
   "We gotta get better, we've got Hampton tomorrow. It's going to be a showdown at Hampton, just like coming up here. Cloudland played well up here, Hampton will play well at home. We'll have to go play, no doubt."