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Simpson cruises, Tunstall tops BHS
Baseball: Tunstall 3, Bassett 1
Tunstall catcher Gavin Payne, right, shows the ball to the umpire after tagging out Bassett's Ben Moore at home plate in the second inning of the Trojans' 3-1 win on Friday at Bassett. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
The Bassett baseball team found out first hand Friday afternoon what happens when Tunstall pitcher Luke Simpson is allowed to dictate tempo:
A whole lot of frustration.
Behind a fundamentally-sound defensive performance and an efficient and effective complete-game effort from Simpson, the Trojans got off to a quick start in Piedmont District play with a 3-1 win at Bassett.
“It was an extremely tough ball game, just trying to score runs here and there,” said Tunstall manager Barry Shelton. “I felt we made some big plays defensively when they tried to take some chances running the bases. We were fortunate to get out of some tough innings at times.”
“(Simpson) started mixing his pitches well once they started keying on his fastball a little bit. Luke’s got a nice change-up and good breaking ball. He’s pitched well for us this year, but I thought we had a solid defense behind him.”
Tunstall (6-2, 1-0 PD) gunned down two potential runs at the plate to end a pair of innings and came up with timely hits to punish a few Bassett errors.
And after a shaky start, Simpson shut down the Bengals the rest of the way.
The junior scattered five hits, allowed one run, struck out three and walked two in an 85-pitch gem. He threw first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 26 batters he faced, and he recorded six one-pitch outs. He also threw four pitches or less to 21 of those 26 hitters.
From the third inning on he threw just 51 pitches, retiring eight in a row after surrendering Bassett’s lone run in the third.
“My team was behind me after making two huge plays in the second, got me out of the jam and gave me more confidence,” Simpson said. “When my teammates give me a couple runs, I know I have to go out there and get the win. As long as I throw strikes and they do their job behind me, we’ll be good.
“Getting ahead allowed me to work with more pitches. Bassett has a really good team; they have a lot of patient hitters, and they battled tough.”
A few Bengal errors in the field overshadowed a fine effort from Bassett starting pitcher Nic Keister, who nearly matched Simpson inning-for-inning.
He pitched six innings, allowed six hits and one earned run, struck out three and walked one. He threw 60 of his 94 pitches for strikes before yielding to Kemper Terry, who struck out the side in the seventh.
“We pride ourselves on pitchers locating pitches and playing defense behind them,” Bassett manager Bill Parks said. “It was uncharacteristic of us (today), and a team like Tunstall will take advantage of your mistakes.”
A play at the plate in the second inning turned out to be a critical.
After falling behind 1-0, Bassett (5-2, 0-1) opened up their half of the second with an infield hit and double off the base of the left-field fence by Samuel Stambaugh, putting runners on the second and third.
After a groundout to third on a drawn-in infield failed to advance the runners, the Bengals hit another ground ball, this time to second.
Tunstall got the force out at first before throwing the ball home, where Tunstall catcher Gavin Payne tagged out Ben Moore to end the threat.
“That play was very unfortunate for them, and we’re fortunate that it worked in our favor,” Shelton said of the double play. “We had the infield in looking to make a play at the plate, and when the runner didn’t break, it played into our favor. With his momentum stopped, we got the out at first and then at the plate, so that was very big right there.”
The Bengals tied the game 1-1 on a Will Hylton sacrifice fly in the third, but they managed just three base runners the rest of the game. The Trojans struggled over the third and fourth innings to do much, but they caught a break in the fifth and cashed it in for the go-ahead run. An error by third baseman by Zach Flemming allowed Evan Huffman to reach base, where he was then bunted to second. Huffman was then driven home with a base-hit to right by Daymon Totherow.
Tunstall added some insurance in the sixth when a Keister wild pitch scored Brad Hylton. Tunstall had a baserunner in every inning except the seventh and got six hits from six different players.
The only other Bassett threat came in the sixth, when Keister was able to advance all the way to third base. But he was tagged out by Simpson trying to score on a wild pitch, which ended the inning.
“In games like this you roll the dice sometimes, and I’d rather be aggressive than to sit back.” added Parks. “Being aggressive is how we got to where we are now. I thought both teams played hard; we just happened to fall on the wrong end of it.”