Warriors gain momentum by clobbering Volunteer

By Matt Hill

STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   It was a slow start for the Happy Valley baseball team this season, but the Warriors showed on Friday that they're starting to live up to the preseason hype.
   Happy Valley definitely looked like the Watauga Conference preseason favorites in a 9-1 win over Volunteer at Cannon-Gouge Park.
   The win improves the Warriors' record to 7-6 overall and 3-4 in the league. It also gives Happy Valley a lot of confidence.
   "I think we're starting to get a lot more confidence about ourselves," Happy Valley first baseman Todd Caldwell said. "The paper picked us early and we didn't come out fired up. But now we're starting to hit the ball. We're just making the plays behind our pitchers, and that's the big thing."
   Speaking of pitching, it was another top-notch performance by talented sophomore Ryan Toney.
   Toney gave up just five hits on the day, and also struck out five.
   "He goes out there and battles," Happy Valley head coach Greg Hyder said. "He's got that attitude out there, and that's what you like to have. He's just a sophomore, and that's good news for us."
   Toney had plenty of run support on Friday. While Toney shut down Volunteer during the first three innings, his teammates scored six runs during that time frame.
   Toney felt a lot easier pitching with a lead.
   "It helped out a lot," Toney said about the run support. "You don't have much pressure or anything. You can go out and just throw the ball and let the infield take care of it."
   Caldwell did all he could to help Toney out. Caldwell had three hits on the day in four at bats.
   "I just had to go out there and help him out a little bit," Caldwell said. "I wanted to make it a lot easier on him. We hit the ball pretty good today. That relieved some of the pressure off of him and let him throw the ball."
   Toney's only major threat of the day came in the fourth after giving up a run and having a couple of men on. But Toney made it out of the inning, then cruised from there.
   "We were up and I had to rely on the field," Toney said. "I was getting a little tired."
   Toney may have been getting tired, but he found some extra strength to pitch three near-flawless innings to close the game out.
   "You've just got to reach down and get it," Toney said. "You can't give up."
   The Warriors obviously haven't given up after the slow start, and the win on Friday avenges an early season loss to the Falcons.
   Toney couldn't be happier.
   "This is a big conference win for us," Toney said. "We've been struggling in the conference, and I think we're coming out of it now. We're playing a lot better defense and we're hitting the ball better."
   Toney added two hits for Happy Valley. Every Warrior reached base at least once.
   Happy Valley hosts Cloudland on Monday.