Hammond’s hungry Skyhawks took command in SCISA Region 2-3A baseball on Wednesday night, whipping Heathwood Hall 11-1 in five innings to take over sole possession of first place and drop the Highlanders down to second place.
“It was a big win, especially after we felt like we gave away the game the last time we played (Heathwood),” said Hammond coach Ray Derrick, referring to a seventh-inning meltdown that allowed the Highlanders to escape with a 7-6 verdict in the first meeting of the archrivals on March 13.
“We’ve been shifting things around a lot this season, looking for the right combinations, and I think maybe we got things settled.”
Sophomore pitcher Kyle Grant baffled the Highlanders with a five-inning, one-hit gem. Grant (2-0, 2.43 ERA) had five strikeouts and issued just one walk.
Hammond scored three runs in the first and second innings, two in the third and three more in the fourth. Senior clean-up hitter Raymond Price had a two-run single to get things going in the first, followed by a sacrifice fly off the bat of senior Jay Talbot. Kyle George rapped a two-run single and Price had another RBI hit in the second. Heathwood errors accounted for the rest of the Skyhawks runs.
The Skyhawks stand at 13-2 overall entering the stretch run of the regular season, and finally have things settled on the diamond. The recently revamped infield defense now features Prince, a two-year starter at third base, at second, former second baseman Kyle Towles at short, eighth-grader Brooks Borders at third and either Grant or fellow sophomore Andrew Lamb at first base, depending on the pitching situation. Talbot has made the demanding shift from the outfield to catcher, and has flourished at the new position, said Derrick. Kyle George is the anchor man in the outfield in center, and is now flanked by sophomore Les Cotter in left and younger brother Hunter George, a sophomore, in right.
The top of the Skyhawks batting order has been very productive. Leadoff man Cotter, in his first full varsity season, is batting .333, drawn a team-high seven walks and scored 11 runs. No. 2 man Towes is hitting .432 with 24 runs scored. George is on fire with a .520 batting mark, five doubles, two home runs, 24 runs scored and 17 RBIs. Clean-up man Prince is batting .476 with seven doubles and 13 RBIs. Talbot is hitting .333 with four doubles, three homers, 11 runs and a team-high 17 RBIs.
Senior James Walkup, Grant and Lamb are the mainstays of the pitching staff. Walkup is 4-0 with a 3.50 ERA, Grant is 2-0 with a 2.43 ERA and Lamb is 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA and a team high 23 strikeouts in 20 innings of work.
“Our pitching has been good, and we’re playing pretty good defense now,” said Derrick. “The key for us offensively is to get a little more hitting from the bottom of the order.”
Hammond has never made it to the SCISA championship round under Derrick, who is in his fifth season at the Skyhawks helm.
“I think we’re good enough to make a run at it, but we haven’t done anything yet,” said the affable Hammond coach. “There is still a long way to go and anything can happen.”
Hammond may have turned the confidence corner during a spring vacation trip to play a series of games against out-of-state team at Disney World. The Skyhawks varsity went 4-1 during the successful Florida junket.