Red Bay earns fifth win over county rivals

By Staff
Mike Self, Franklin County Times
VINA – At first glance, Red Bay's season series with Belgreen may appear one-sided, but that doesn't mean it's been easy.
"They've played us tough all year, and today was no exception," Tiger head coach Donnie Hastings said after his team improved to 5-0 against the Bulldogs with a 7-1 win at the Franklin County Tournament on Thursday. "I never really felt like we had the game in hand, even when they brought some of their young guys in to pitch late. I had a young guy on the mound, too, and they've got some good hitters in their lineup. I kept hoping we would go ahead and deliver the knockout punch, but we never did."
The Tigers (16-6 overall) had already swept a pair of doubleheaders from the Bulldogs earlier this season, twice winning by just one run.
Belgreen fell to 6-10 on the year, with half of those losses coming to their county rivals from just up Hwy. 24.
Cody Armstrong led the attack for Red Bay on Thursday with three doubles, including a hard-hit grounder down the third-base line to jumpstart a three-run rally in the bottom of the third that gave the Tigers a 4-1 lead.
Derrick Miller got the win on the mound, holding Belgreen to one run on five hits in four innings of work.
"Derrick just needs to throw more, but he can be a really good pitcher," Hastings said. "He's one of the few guys we have who played basketball, so he got a little bit of a later start."
After allowing an RBI single to Kalan McNatt in the top of the second, Miller worked out of bases-loaded jams in the third and fourth innings without giving up a run.
"In those situations, I'm just looking for my pitchers to make them hit the ball," Hastings said. "I don't want them to walk a guy in."
With the score tied 1-1 in the top of the third, Belgreen sandwiched two-out singles by Marty Britton and Shane Fretwell around a walk to Will Washington to load the bases. Miller retired cleanup hitter Jesse Edwards on a groundball to second to end the inning.
Armstrong led off the bottom of the inning with a double and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Ely Cox. The Tigers then added a pair of unearned runs to make it 4-1.
Base hits by Lucas Albert and Jordan Williams and a hit batsman loaded the bases for Belgreen again in the top of the fourth with just one out, but Miller recorded back-to-back strikeouts to escape the jam.
Dillon Massey and Cox came through with RBI singles in the bottom of the fourth to make it 6-1, and Red Bay added its final run in the fifth.
Massey relieved Miller to start the fifth and pitched three scoreless innings of relief to earn the save.
Senior centerfielder Brandon Brown helped Massey with a couple of nice defensive plays in the top of the sixth.
After Albert led off with an infield single, Brown raced over into the gap in left-center to track down a line drive by McNatt for the first out of the inning.
Brown later threw out a runner trying to advance to third base to end the frame.
Armstrong finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored, and Cox went 2-for-2 with two RBIs.
Morgan Stanfield stole three bases and scored a pair of runs, and Miller went 1-for-3 with two runs scored an RBI.
Albert led the Bulldogs at the plate, going 2-for-2. Britton, Washington, Fretwell and McNatt each added one hit.
Immediately after their game with Red Bay, the Bulldogs began preparing to take on Phil Campbell in their final round-robin game. The Bobcats, who won twice on Wednesday, needed to beat Belgreen to wrap up the No. 1 seed for today's single-elimination tournament.
Red Bay was scheduled to face Vina last night at 7 p.m. in another round-robin game.
The tournament will conclude today, with semifinal games scheduled for 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. and the championship set for 7 p.m.