Laurence Manning Academy head baseball coach Barry Hatfield has had a highly successful run in his tenure with the Swampcat program, and all early indications point to another deep SCISA 3A playoff run in 2019.
The latest evidence of that came on …
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The latest evidence of that came on Tuesday as LMA ran its record to 3-0 with an 11-0 run-rule win over rival Wilson Hall on the Barons' home field in the Region II opener for both schools.
The Swampcats took charge from the start, posting three runs in each of the first three innings before adding two in the top of the fifth to set up the early finish. LMA had production up and down the lineup, with the top five batters accounting for 11 of the Swampcats' 13 hits, 10 runs, nine runs batted in, two walks, two stolen bases and one hit by pitch.
"We lost a lot of kids last year, but we've prepared these kids to step into these different roles," Hatfield said of his team's early-season success. "We lost, I think, six starters last year, but as the years have gone by since middle school we've prepared them to step into these roles. I'm real proud of the way that they've done so far. Offensively, we've swung the bat in these first three games as good as we've swung it any year, so if we can just continue that (we should be good). We still have some things we've got to work on defensively, and we've still got to develop some pitching depth, but I'm real proud of what they've done so far."
Leadoff hitter Brewer Brunson set the table well all night, reaching base with two singles and a triple to the leftfield corner and coming around to score each time while also driving in a run. Burgess Jordan reached on a single and worked Wilson Hall starter Tanner Epps for two walks to also end with three runs while Aaron Carlton singled, doubled, was hit by a pitch, scored three runs and drove in four. Cleanup hitter Britton Morris ended with three singles and three RBI, while Jake Jordan added two singles and a triple, scoring one and driving home one.
"We've had a lot of kids (swing the bat well)," Hatfield said. "Aaron Carlton, Burgess Jordan; Brewer Brunson has taken over the leadoff role and I've been very pleased. The kids, they've just really stepped into the roles and for some of them the roles have changed. Brewer was kind of a scat runner, bottom-of-the-order guy the last couple of years and now he's stepped into the role of leadoff and has performed really well, and I'm real happy for him. But we've had quite a few kids that, so far what we're seeing is we're hitting pretty much through the order, so that makes coaching a lot easier."
Wilson Hall's best scoring threat came in the top of the first inning, with Tyler Jones lacing a double to left field off LMA starter Andrew Boyd. Epps would draw a 1-out walk, putting runners at the corners before Boyd would rally to strike out Wise Segars looking and handle a grounder off the bat of Harrison Hudson to end the threat.
Boyd held the Barons to that one hit while going the distance, striking out five and walking two. Wilson Hall had five baserunners against Boyd, with one coming on a passed ball third strike and another coming on an infield error.
"He was not quite as sharp," Hatfield said of Boyd. "He was missing a little bit of spots. He can be a (dominant) pitcher. He's committed to Radford, a (NCAA) Division I team, and he can be very tough on the mound. He missed his spots a little bit tonight, but he has a chance every game when he goes out to be kind of difficult to handle, so I've been real pleased with him."
Wilson Hall head coach Adam Jarecki is accentuating the positives each game with a young team that has dropped each of its first three games.
"They've got a good team, and Boyd does a nice job. He's a good pitcher," Jarecki said. "We've just got some growing up to do. We've got to get better, that's all. We've got to make plays, especially when Tanner is pitching. He's our best and we've got to make plays behind him. We had some positive things tonight, though. We had a couple of nice plays on the infield, second baseman (Jones) made a couple of nice plays, we had a nice play at short (Chase Ward), a nice play at third (Hudson), Wise had a nice catch in center, so those are positives that we've got to keep working on."
Epps, who struck out three and walked one in four innings of work, retired the side in the fourth to extend the game for Wilson Hall, thanks to a standout defensive effort from two of his Baron teammates. Jones ranged from his second base position to the rightfield side of the bag to smother a Seth Stamps grounder and get off a throw to a stretching first baseman Hunter Ives, who was able to scoop the throw and hold the bag to record the inning-ending out on a close play.
Tate Sistare came on to pitch the final inning for Wilson Hall, recording all three outs on ground balls. Sistare surrendering a walk, two hits and two runs, with another batter reaching on an error.
"We've got three returners, three kids back from last year and we graduated eight," Jarecki said of a year in which Wilson Hall is not fielding a junior varsity baseball team. "Most of our kids are JV age, but that's no excuse. We've just got to keep working and keep getting better. We've got to thrive on the positive and build on that and go from there."
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