HUGHESVILLE-The bats are less potent and some quality power hitters have graduated.
But Hughesville still knows how to produce runs. The Spartans proved that in their opener Wednesday at Bodine Park, using two squeeze bunts to produce go-ahead runs. Hughesville scored three sixth-inning runs, Scott Myers and Justin Lambert combined on a four-hitter and Levi McCarty went 2 for 2 as it downed Warrior Run, 5-2.
It was a good sign for a team that, like all Pennsylvania squads, is adjusting to using BBCOR bats. Those are bats that have a smaller barrel and sweet spot than those in years past.
"With the BBCOR bats, we have to figure out how to play small ball," Hughesville coach Casey Waller said. "You're not going to have many gap shots and home runs this year so it's a lot of situational baseball and I love situational baseball."
The Spartans tied a program-record with 15 wins last year and were among the area leaders in home runs. Even if the home run totals to take a big dip this year, Hughesville could be every bit as dangerous. Executing well in all facets is the main reason why.
Jeremiah McCarty dropped a perfect RBI squeeze toward third base in the fifth inning, giving Hughesville its first lead, 2-1. After Derek Keiser (2 for 3) homered to tie it in the sixth, Hughesville used the bunt as a weapon again. Lambert placed a beautiful bunt toward first, bringing in Jesse Hulien with what became the game-winning run.
Hulien led off the inning with a double and stole third before J.D. Sones and McCarty walked. John Poust made it 4-2 with a slow roller to third and Tyler Potts (2 for 3), who had scored off Jeremiah McCarty's bunt, made it 5-2, when he belted a RBI single.
"We have stations dedicated to bunts and we do a lot of baserunning. It all pays off in the end as you saw today," Levi McCarty said. "With the change to the BBCOR this year, small-ball is going to be back in more than usual and if we can adapt and be good at that we can squeak out some wins here and there."
Lambert went 1 for 2, stole a base and played stellar defense at shortstop. His biggest contribution, however, came on the mound. Lambert entered with no outs and the go-ahead run on in the sixth. He then retired all six batters he faced, striking out the final four. Like Myers, Lambert consistently worked ahead and threw strikes. Together, that duo threw just 78 pitches.
Lambert exacted a measure of revenge after taking the loss in Turbotville last year when Steven Bender hit a walk-off grand slam. Bender was the first batter the sophomore faced yesterday and he retired him on a first-pitch pop-up.
"I told coach (Tuesday) I wanted to finish and he told me I was going to. It felt good to get the win," Lambert said. "I had a three-run lead (in the seventh) and that's a good cushion. I wanted to go out there and turn it up some."
"I wanted to see him throw against Bender and I wanted to see him get a victory there," Levi McCarty said. "It was nice to see him come through in that situation for us."
McCarty came through every time he batted, reaching base all three times and tying the game 1-1 in the fourth with a RBI double. Sones led off that inning with a single and pinch-runner Josh Saar stole second to move into scoring position.
While the Hughesville offense warmed up, Myers kept it in position to win, throwing five strong innings. The right-hander worked a lot in the past with late, former coach Scott Grove and one has the feeling the legendary coach was smiling from above at Myers' performance. Myers retired 11 straight between the first and fifth innings, struck out three, walked none, went to a three-ball count only once and threw just 58 pitches.
"Scott Myers pitched a good game," Waller said. "He and Lambert threw strikes and pounded the zone. We have a nice defense and if they let us play defense we'll be in good shape."
Keiser led off the game with a double and scored on a Tyler Rivers grounder, giving Warrior Run a 1-0 lead. The Defenders (0-2) showed marked improvement after making 16 errors in their first two games, one which was suspended in the ninth inning against Montgomery, 5-5. Hunter Raup pitched five strong innings and the defense played much better.
Raup kept Warrior Run in the game before exiting after Hulien hit a lead-off sixth-inning double. Hulien ignited the rally with a deep hit before Hughesville showed how important bunting can be.
"With us switching to the BBCOR bats, coach stressed about playing small-ball and we did that today," Lambert said. "Once we got it going we played small ball and we played well."
Warrior Run100 001 0-2 4 3
Hughesville000 113 x-5 7 1
Hunter Raup, Curtis Hendershot (6), Vance Meyer (7) and Tyler Rivers. Scott Myers, Justin Lambert (6) and J.D. Sones. W-Lambert, (1-0). L-Raup.
Top Warrior Run hitters: Derek Keiser 2-3, HR, 2B, 2 runs. Top Hughesville hitters: Jesse Hulien 1-3, 2B, R; J.D. Sones 1-2; Levi McCarty 2-2, 2B, RBI, R; Lambert 1-2, RBI.
Records: Hughesville 1-0, 1-0 HAC-II. Warrior Run 0-1, 0-1.