- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY Doug Ford
Head Coach Jody Nelson of the Halifax County Middle School baseball team admitted early on to not knowing much about a team that returned only five players from last year.
He found out enough Saturday to let him know his team was making sound progress toward a competitive ball club following its win in the Halifax County Middle School tournament.
The Lions defeated Roxboro Community School 12-1 in four innings in their opener, and they followed that up with an 8-3 win over Northern Middle School (N.C.) in five innings to take home the championship.
Other tournament games had Northern Middle School edging Bluestone Middle School 15-13 in the opener, and Bluestone defeating Roxboro Community School 14-11 for third-place.
Kelonte Gutrich had a big day both at the plate and on the mound for Halifax County, hitting two home runs and two singles and accounting for five RBI, while striking out seven batters in three and two-thirds innings to get the win on the mound in the opener.
Gutrich added another inside-the-park homer and a sacrifice fly for five more RBI in the championship game.
Jake Hughes added a three-run homer in the opener, and hurler Andrew Abbott struck out three batters in three innings of work and got the win in game two, aiding his cause with a two-run single in the process.
Winning both games in the fashion the Lions did, after falling behind in both contests early, was an absolutely great way to open the season, according to Nelson.
“I felt we were a little behind where we should be going in, but the guys did a nice job and played hard,” he said.
“They put in a lot of long hours, especially Friday, and they had a good practice. Give credit to the guys, they worked and they deserved it.”
The Lions got contributions at the plate and on the mound from its entire roster in the tournament.
“Kelonte Gutrich hit three home runs, two of them inside the park, and Jake hit a home run, so any time you hit four home runs in two games it shows you have a little bit of power,” Nelson noted.
In the championship game, Abbott helped himself out with a key two-strike, two-out hit that plated two runs and tied the game, Nelson noted.
“They stayed in it, and that was the key, they didn’t panic,” said Nelson.
“We’re starting to mature a little bit and don’t get worked up.”
Nelson also was impressed with his pitching staff on Saturday.
“We used five guys on the mound today, and got to see a little bit of everybody,” said Nelson
“They looked fairly sharp and didn’t give up a lot of walks with a lot of strikeouts.
“It’s ahead of where I thought it would be, and the defense was in the right spots. We made a couple of errors, but that’s nothing we can’t overcome.
“We got a key pickoff off second in the second game, but I’d like to see us improve a little bit more defensively.”
HCMS 12 Roxboro Community School 1
Gutrich hit an inside-the-park home run his first at-bat and added a two-run homer in the fourth inning, and the Lions defeated Roxboro Community School (RCS) 12-1.
RCS used a double, single and Lions error to plate one run in the first inning, but it was all Halifax thereafter, with the Lions breaking a 1-1 tie with three runs in the second inning.
One run in the third inning and seven in the fourth inning, capped by Gutrich’s two-run single ended the game.
Gutrich finished with two home runs, two singles and five RBI in the game, while Hughes added a three-run homer in the second inning.
Jacob McKinney finished with an RBI triple, Kavon Fitzgerald with an RBI double, Brayden Moore with an RBI single, Tyler Duffer with an RBI groundout and base hit, Joey Davis with a triple and run scored and Tylik Powell and Abbott with base hits for the Lions.
Gutrich struck out seven batters in three and two-thirds innings, and Hughes struck out one batter in one-third inning of work on the mound in game one, with a combined two walks.
HCMS 8 Northern Middle School 3
Northern scored two runs off a single, triple and RBI groundout in its first at-bat, but the Lions recovered with a three-run first inning on the way to a 8-3 win for the championship.
Gutrich finished with a three-run homer and two-run sacrifice fly, and Abbot with a two-run single for the Lions, which also got a hit and three runs scored from leadoff hitter Hughes, a triple from Powell and singles from Arthur Watts and McKinney.
Trailing 2-0, Hughes was hit by a pitch and Watts and Gutrich walked, prior to Abbott’s single and Gutrich’s steal of home that made it 3-2 after one inning.
Hughes and Watts walked prior to Gutrich’s home run in the second to make it 6-2 after two frames, and Fitzgerald walked and Hughes and Watts singled prior to Gutrich’s sacrifice fly in the third for an 8-2 lead.
A single and Lions’ error produced Northern’s last run in the sixth inning.
Halifax sent three pitchers to the mound against Northern, with Abbott striking out four batters in three innings and Tanner Bennett striking out two batters in two innings, before McKinney came to the mound for the sixth and final frame.
The three Lions hurlers combined to walk only three batters.