Hurricane holds off Winfield 5-2
WINFIELD, W.Va. -When his heavy-hitting Hurricane teammates reached the fence - or as close as you could get on this blustery day - Austin Hensley was on his way to outpitching Winfield ace Mason Dillon.
Hensley went the distance Wednesday, giving up six hits and two runs (one earned) in the Redskins' 5-2 win over the Generals. He escaped tough situations in the second and fourth innings.
He didn't have much problem in the fifth, sixth and seventh, though, allowing no Winfield runners past first base.
"He's a bulldog. He wanted [to pitch all seven]," said Hurricane coach Brian Sutphin. "The best he threw all game was in the seventh."
As Hensley got stronger, so did the Hurricane bats, equaling Winfield's six hits in the fifth and seventh alone in breaking a 2-2 tie. All the damage came with two outs, with four big hits supplied by Ace Estep and Riley Metz.
The fifth was looking like any other Dillon-pitched inning, especially when the Generals turned their third double play. But Estep launched a long triple to right-center and Metz singled him in to give Hurricane a 3-2 lead.
In the seventh, Dillon was one out away from keeping Winfield's deficit at a run when the batting order got back around to the No. 2 spot, where Estep was hitting. He belted a long double to center, which Metz duplicated for another critical RBI. Tate Brock followed with a double to set the final score.
Dillon had gotten Estep to hit into a double play in the first inning and limited Metz to a strikeout and a grounder in his first two at-bats.
"I came up to the plate and said, 'He got my number twice, and I'm not going to let him do it a third and fourth time,' " Metz said. "Baseball's a game of repetition, but I just got him on the curveball."
Sutphin pointed out that Metz had a tough day fielding at third base, but didn't let it affect him at the plate.
"He's a mentally tough kid. He had some really big at-bats," Sutphin said. "He's worked really hard in the offseason, this is the best shape he's ever been in and we're happy he's part of our team, that's for sure."
The only question about those extra-base hits is how many would have cleared the fence without that biting wind, blowing at 20 mph with gusts to 30 or more. It came in from left field most often.
So while home runs were out of the question, batters had the advantage of baffled outfielders. Perhaps Estep's triple was the best illustration, as the wind kept steering the fly ball to the right-center field gap.
"It started out in center, and our center fielder [Fields] is over in right-center," said Winfield coach Will Isaacs. "That's not to take anything away from his hit, and that's not to say our center fielder would have caught it anyway. But both teams had to play in those conditions, and we're by the river. We practice in them, so those aren't excuses."
Winfield (2-2) scored in the opening frame on Jordan Clark's double and Josh Bumgarner's RBI single. Hurricane (3-1) tied it in the second on an Alex Dunham sacrifice fly and took the lead when Connor Adams singled, stole second, advance to third on a wild pitch and scored on a double play.
The Generals tied it in the fourth when Tanner Bailey reached on an infield error, moved to second on a Derek Whiteside single, went to third on a walk and scored on a Brandon Wright fielder's choice.
But there could have been more. In the second, Hensley faced runners on second and third with none out, struck two out and coaxed a force-out with the bases loaded. In the fourth, he escaped a bases-loaded jam with just one run allowed.
Isaacs wasn't down on his team's performance. After all, it's still March and the opponent is better than average.
"The only disappointment is that we lost on the scoreboard," Isaacs said. "We played hard, we played well, we battled at the plate. They're a good team, and Mason's going to face a lot of good teams. And he didn't pitch poorly."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org or at twitter.com/dougsmock.