Special to LTN
DENVER — The way West Lincoln pitcher Cameron High sees it, the first inning is always his most difficult.
That was the case Tuesday night against East Lincoln as he allowed three runs in the opening frame. But he made up for it in the final six.
The Rebels senior right-hander regrouped after giving up the three-run lead the Rebels staked him to in the first and mowed down a talented East Lincoln lineup for an 8-4 victory in a battle of the Southern Piedmont Conference’s two undefeated teams.
“Usually my first inning is my toughest,” said High, who allowed three runs on three hits in the opening inning. “If I can get through the first one or two innings, I’m usually good after that.”
On Tuesday, High was good early with a heavy dose of great to close out his fifth win in as many decisions. East Lincoln put together four runs on five hits in the first three innings, but High settled down and didn’t allow a hit over the final four innings and finished with 13 strikeouts – his most since “maybe I was 12 years old,” he guessed.
West Lincoln now sits atop the conference standings at 6-0 and 9-2 overall. East Lincoln is right behind at 5-1 and 8-3. The two teams play again April 26 at West Lincoln.
High didn’t do it all on his own Tuesday. West Lincoln came out swinging and piled up 12 hits off three East Lincoln pitchers. Cody Dellinger (2-4, three RBIs) broke a 3-3 tie in the third inning off Mustangs starter Darin Salter with a two-out double that scored Chandler Jenkins. Derrick Braun (3-4, RBI) followed with a run-scoring single to right to push the Rebels’ lead to 5-3.
The Mustangs closed the gap to 5-4 in the bottom of the inning on a two-out throwing error, but West Lincoln added three more runs in the fourth inning.
With Danny Sullivan replacing Salter, Jenkins (2-4, two runs, two RBIs) drove in Chris Callahan and Brett Huff (2-3, two runs) with a single and Mack George made it 8-4 with an RBI groundout scoring Dalton Towery (2-4, run).
“I thought we got into some good counts and some situations where we could get some good pitches and when they missed in the middle of the plate I felt like we hit it hard and capitalized on some opportunities early,” West Lincoln coach Allan Chapman said.
East Lincoln played without cleanup hitter Addison Parrish, who suffered an AC sprain in his right shoulder last week against Bessemer City. East Lincoln coach Chris Matile hopes to have his first baseman/pitcher back over spring break, but said he won’t rush him back into the lineup until he’s fully healed.
“Offensively, he’s a big force and he’s also a good first baseman, too, and he’s a good pitcher,” Matile said of Parrish. “He brings a lot to the baseball game. We have to overcome that. Injuries happen to everybody. I think we’ll be OK. We’ll figure it out.”
Clay Hodges led the Mustangs at the plate, going 2-4 with a run, while Salter was 1-2 with two runs scored. But High kept the middle of the East Lincoln order in check. The 3-4-5 hitters combined to hit 1-9 with a run and five strikeouts.
On an evening with the temperature hovering around 40 degrees from start to finish, High kept the East Lincoln bats cold by hitting his spots with an array of fastballs and off-speed pitches.
“It makes it colder out here than it actually was,” Matile said of High’s performance. “We just didn’t do a good job offensively tonight. We usually do a better job. Cameron did a good job throwing to where the umpire was giving them. Bottom line: They’re pitching did a good job, their defense did a decent job. We had some opportunities and just couldn’t come up with it.”
Chapman, who’s coached High for four seasons, said Tuesday’s performance was one of his best.
“Not in a game this big,” said Chapman when asked if he’d seen High pitch as well as he did Tuesday. “He always locates well. He always keeps us in the game. There are very few times he goes out and gets hit really hard. He refuses to give in. He makes hitters hit his pitch and I felt like tonight he was as sharp as we’ve seen him in a long time.”