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March 8, 2013

Hale sharp as Raiders baseball earns third straight win

Damon Roberts’ early control problems on the mound proved costly for Murray County High School on Thursday.

But from the start, Southeast Whitfield’s Tyler Hale was nearly unhittable.

Hale and Blake Foster combined for a one-hitter and led Southeast to its third consecutive win, a 12-0 defeat of the Indians.

Foster struck out the side in the seventh. Hale pitched six innings, struck out nine and walked just two, and his performance was the first thing Southeast (3-3) coach Brad Lofton talked about after the game.

“He had good command of his fastball, and handled his off-speed pitches well,” Lofton said. “He got behind on some counts early and battled back.”

Southeast scored two runs in the first inning thanks to two passed balls, two walks, one hit and one hit batter. Devin Gentry’s RBI double in the third added to the lead, and Jose Vargas’ RBI walk made it 4-0 through four innings.

In the fifth, the Raiders scored five runs after the first five batters reached base — three on bunt singles — and a wild pitch resulted in two more runs. Pedro Vargas was one of three Raiders with two hits, and his two-run single in the seventh finished the scoring.

Southeast’s Austin Purkey finished 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs, while Gentry was 2-for-5 with two RBIs. Southeast almost hit through the lineup five times, and the Raiders received a free pass from Murray County’s pitcher in each inning they scored.

“(Roberts) struggled throwing strikes early,” said Murray County coach Jeff Lanning, whose Indians dropped their second straight game to start the season. “Then he got into a groove and for those three innings there, we kept things close. We made some mental mistakes in the middle of the game. ... A lot of that is attributed to not being on the field that much. We’ve only been on it eight times, including tryouts.”

The Indians, who lost 15-0 last week in their season opener against Pickens, still haven’t scored a run.

“No one said it would be easy coming off a 1-17 season last year,” Lanning said. “I like this group’s attitude and where the program is going. ... It’s not going to turn around in one season.”

Jacob Payne and Austin Pearson each reached base on a walk, and Jagger Childers reached on the Raiders’ only error. Josh Jacobson’s hit in the fourth went over the right fielder’s head, but high grass kept the ball from rolling to the fence and held Jacobson to a single.

That broke up the no-hitter for Hale, who enjoyed the field’s condition, which slowed grounders and made it easy on his defense.

“It slows it down and there’s mud from the rain,” Hale said. “I just woke up and got mentally prepared to play the game well enough to win.”

Roberts pitched five innings, allowed seven earned runs off eight hits and seven walks with five strikeouts. Wyatt Stuckey pitched the final two innings, allowing one earned run on two hits and a walk.

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