Lewis delivers late 2-run hit and Skins edge Cougars, 7-6
CHARLESTON — It’s hard to believe that Hurricane might be scrapping to get into its conference championship tournament, but if it is, then Thursday’s win should help greatly in that regard.
Brenden Lewis, the Redskins’ No. 9 hitter, delivered a two-out, two-run single in the top of the fifth to give his team the lead for good during a 7-6 victory at Capital in a matchup of Mountain State Athletic Conference and Class AAA contenders.
Tyler Cox allowed one run in three innings of relief to save the game for Redskins starter Jonathan Blackwell, the Coastal Carolina signee who struck out nine in his four innings with several scouts and their radar guns positioned behind the batting cage.
Hurricane (15-2), the defending AAA state champion, entered the game sixth in the latest MSAC standings, with only the top four teams advancing to the April 28-29 league championship tournament at the site of the No. 1 team (currently St. Albans). The Redskins have won six conference titles since 2007 and are seemingly in the running for the MSAC crown every season.
On Thursday, they needed to answer the call after upstart Capital (11-5) held a 4-1 lead after three innings and was up 5-3 after four. Hurricane plated four runs against Andrew Sydenstricker in the top of the fifth to go up 7-5, getting Lewis’ clutch single and a bases-loaded walk from Walker James. Another run crossed on a wild pitch.
Cox and the Skins held on after Cam Thomas ripped a two-out RBI single in the sixth to score Logan Spurlock, who had tripled with two out, and make it 7-6. Capital’s Owen Moore led off the bottom of the seventh with a single but was stranded there by Cox.
“It was a good ballgame,” said Hurricane coach Brian Sutphin. “Both teams were out there competing, and there was some really good stuff for both sides. We didn’t play real sharp, but that’s how you find out what your team is about when things aren’t going your way.
“Our guys were getting out there and making plays when they needed to and guys were having good at bats when they needed to. Overall, you’re certainly hoping this time of the season that you’re playing crisper than that, but baseball is an interesting game, especially when you have expectations starting things. It’s certainly a mental game.”
Even though the Redskins played errorless ball, Blackwell walked four batters and hit one in his four innings and Capital outhit Hurricane 9-8.
Lewis drove in three runs in all, getting a sacrifice fly in the fourth. Cox led the Skins at the plate, going 3 for 4 with an RBI single and Quarrier Phillips went 2 for 3 and scored three times.
The win made Hurricane 3-1 in designated conference games with the possibility of six more to come, giving the Skins a chance to again make the field.
“It’s nice for the kids to have an opportunity to compete and get better,” Sutphin said of the MSAC tournament. “We’ve found out a lot about our team playing there a week before the sectionals, and that’s helped us.”
Capital jumped into a 3-1 lead in the second inning, getting an RBI single from Ryan Thomas and a two-run single from Spurlock. Greg Schott drove in a run with a single in the third to make it 4-1. Cam Thomas stroked an RBI double in the fourth, scoring Spurlock all the way from first.
“My kids did really good tonight,” said Cougars coach Kyle Root. “I told them there shouldn’t be any pressure on us. No one’s expecting much from us this year, so we’ll just go out and play our game and have fun. We had our chances tonight, but little things kind of came and got us in the end.”
Capital appears to be in good shape to make the MSAC final four, holding second place in the league standings at 6-3 with one MSAC game remaining, a makeup game against Huntington on April 23 at home.
“That will be another big game for us,” Root said.