Defensive gems carry Red Bay past Belgreen

By Staff
Mike Self, Franklin County Times
BELGREEN – The last time Cody Armstrong faced Belgreen, he overpowered the Bulldogs with 14 strikeouts in a complete game no-hitter.
On Tuesday, Red Bay's junior righthander needed a little more help from his friends.
Morgan Stanfield made a pair of clutch defensive plays in right field to help Armstrong hold Belgreen in check as the Tigers continued their strong play with a 3-1 win in the first game of a doubleheader.
"Belgreen is a quality team," said Red Bay coach Donnie Hastings, whose Tigers won for the seventh time in eight games and improved their overall record to 10-2. "Coach [Derek] Ergle does a great job with them.
"One of the biggest differences for us this year is that we have a lot of guys who have been playing together for a while now. They have confidence in themselves and each other, and it shows."
Red Bay was leading 2-1 in the bottom of the third inning when Belgreen's Shane Fretwell hit a line drive into the gap in right-center field with one out and a man on first.
Stanfield raced over to make a diving catch, robbing Fretwell of extra bases and preserving the one-run lead.
"I knew if they got a hit right there they were going to score, so I just tried to do everything I could to help Armstrong," Stanfield said. "I probably couldn't make that catch again if I tried."
An RBI single by Armstrong in the top of the fifth made it 3-1, but Belgreen (4-5) threatened with another rally in the bottom of the sixth.
With two outs and a man on first, Jordan Williams hit a line drive into shallow right field that had base hit written all over it. Stanfield fielded the ball on a hop and never hesitated, firing a strong throw to first to get Williams by a step and end the inning on a rare 9-3 putout.
"You don't see it everyday, but I was proud to have it," Hastings said. "I thought Morgan was going to try and catch it in the air, but he played it right. He got to it quick and came up throwing."
The resilient Bulldogs still wouldn't quit. After Justin Gardner finished off another strong outing with a 1-2-3 top of the seventh, Kalan McNatt and Taylor Hester started the bottom of the inning with back-to-back singles.
After a visit from Hastings, Armstrong settled down and struck out the next three batters to finish off the win.
"He had allowed a couple of two-strike hits, so I just told him to be a little more careful," Hastings said. "I definitely wasn't expecting three straight strikeouts, not with the guys they had coming up. Marty Britton always hits the ball well against us, and Will Washington had been putting the ball in play all day. I was just glad Fretwell didn't get back up there."
Armstrong ended up allowing five hits in a complete game, striking out seven and walking one.
Gardner, whose 14-strikeout performance against Red Bay two weeks ago was outdone by Armstrong's no-hitter in a 2-1 Tiger win, took the hard-luck loss yet again. He allowed three runs, two earned, on five hits in a complete game, striking out seven and walking four.
Belgreen took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Gardner reached on an error and later scored on Taylor Hester's sacrifice fly.
Red Bay answered with two runs in the third, taking a 2-1 lead on Armstrong's RBI double.
Hester led the Bulldogs with two hits, and Williams, Kalan McNatt and Jessie Edwards each had one.
Armstrong had two hits for Red Bay, and Stanfield, Brandon Brown and Nathan Hopkins each added one.
The second game of the doubleheader was completed after press time. See Friday's edition of the FCT for results.

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