Head coach Robert Carillo’s Phelps Hornets defeated the Pike Central Hawks in convincing fashion in the first round of the 60th District Tournament 9-3 on Saturday Night at Massey Energy Field in Belfry after coming into the game as heavy underdogs.
Pike Central drew first blood in the opening frame via a sacrifice fly from Bryce Adkins which scored Keegan Bentley, putting the Hawks in front 1-0.
Phelps quickly put themselves in command the next half inning, however. Cainan Land launched a double and plated Logan Layne to tie the game at 1-1. Christian Land followed that up with a hit of his own which scored Cainan Land and Jordan Blankenship to put the Hornets ahead 3-1.
Carillo’s club didn’t look back from that point forward. Cameron McCarter led off the top of the third inning with a single, then a base knock from Dominick Francis sent McCarter to third base and he scored on another hit to extend the Phelps advantage to 4-1. The rally continued as Francis crossed home plate on a wild pitch from Ben Huffman and the lead swelled to 5-1.
That score remained the same, until the road half of the seventh inning when the Hornets had runners on the corners with one out. Another wild pitch from the Hawks scored Francis to put Phelps ahead even further at 6-1 and Blankenship increased the Hornet lead to 7-1 by driving in Layne.
The problems continued for Chris Lawson’s team in the inning as two throwing errors by the Hawks scored Blankenship and Dawson McCoy and the rout continued as the PHS lead increased to eight at 9-1.
Kaden Crum and Bentley both crossed home plate in the bottom of the seventh, but Central did not pull any closer and Phelps earned the 9-3 victory.
Caleb Dotson and Christian Land both added double digit hits to their stat line with two each with the latter driving in a run for the Hornets. McCarter, Francis, Blankenship, McCoy, Cainan Land and Gaige Runyan each had one base hit on the evening. Cainan Land, Runyan, Blankenship and Riley Dotson also had an RBI each due to four of the team’s runs coming off Pike Central errors and wild pitches.
Dotson started on the hill for the Hornets, and he tossed a complete game in which he gave up two earned runs and fanned four Hawks.
PC was led in hitting by Bently and Caleb Mouton on the night as each had two hits with the former knocking a double and the latter notching an RBI. Adkins drove in the most runs for the Hawks with two, and he, Jared Stanley and Izaac Blankenship were the other three players to get into the hit column for Central with one each.
Ben Huffman experienced a rough start on the mound for the Hawks, lasting only two frames and giving up three earned runs while striking out three Hornets. He was relieved by Cam Kimbler who pitched the last five innings, surrendering three earned runs and sitting down five batters via the strikeout.
Carillo expressed admiration in how his squad came together as a unit to score the all-around team victory.
“I’m proud that our team came here and played together as a family,” said Carillo. “They put it all in. Pike Central did a heck of a job. Today we got the dub and that’s what we came here for.”
Phelps didn’t seem to have much trouble handling the underdog label in this game and that is something Carillo would agree with.
“We had some odds stacked against us, but at the end of the day we came together and worked hard and fought hard until the end,” said Carillo. “I can’t be any more proud of these boys.”
The Hornets hope to keep the momentum from this win rolling into Tuesday’s district championship matchup with Belfry, and according to Carillo, they’re going to spend little time celebrating this win and immediately get back to work.
“We’re just going to hit practice hard first thing Monday and put in some hard work before the game and come out and give it 110 percent,” he said.
With the loss, Pike Central saw their 2021 season come to an end with an overall record of 14-14. Phelps improved to an 8-10 overall mark on the campaign with the win and they will move on to face Michael Hagy’s Belfry Pirates in the 60th District championship game at Massey Energy Field on Tuesday night. Scheduled start time is 6:00 p.m.