March 21, 2014

Prep roundup: Little things hurt Mountaineers baseball

CHATSWORTH — North Murray High School’s baseball team has a first-year head coach, new starters at a few key positions and a pitching rotation that still isn’t set.

Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that there are plenty of things the Mountaineers are working on even with region play having started and the regular season halfway over.

On a day when both sides made mistakes, they hurt North Murray more in a 5-3 loss to Region 5-3A opponent Ringgold on Friday.

“It’s going to take experience,” said coach David Redmond, whose Mountaineers dropped to 5-9 overall and 1-1 in region play. “We try to put them in game-type situations at practice, but it’s just hard to rep against a caliber team like Ringgold and the rest of our region.”

The game was tied at 1 after each team hit a solo home run early — Logan Baldwin to lead off the game for the Tigers (10-4, 2-0 Region 5-3A), Lake Burris to lead off the second for the Mountaineers — and the score remained that way entering the fourth, when things took a bad turn for North Murray.

A one-out fielding error by North Murray second baseman Alex Viars allowed designated hitter Chase Burke on board, and Mountaineers starter Cole Vaughn then sandwiched a strikeout with a pair of walks. That brought University of Georgia signee Slade Dale to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs.

The count was full when Dale popped up between first and second, just off the dirt. Viars camped underneath the ball for what looked to be a routine third out, but the sky was overcast with grayish-white clouds at the time and Viars apparently lost the ball on its way down.

It dropped without him touching it. Dale was suddenly safe on first and the Tigers had a 4-1 lead.

“That was a big momentum-killer for us,” Redmond said. “We still haven’t learned to overcome those. Mistakes are going to happen in the game of baseball, we’ve just got to minimize them.”

It wasn’t the first time Friday a routine play went awry for both teams. Viars was the batter in the second when a trio of Tigers converged on his pop fly to shallow right without anyone touching the ball before it hit the ground, putting him safe at second with one out.

Nothing else came of that mistake, but to the Tigers’ credit they didn’t miss their opportunity in the fourth. With the count full, all three runners put their heads down and sprinted — and it was the difference in the game.

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