A tale of two season openers
The two opening games on Monday, March 15, could not have been more different, with one being warm and breezy, like a taste of the coming spring, and the other cold, windy, and soaking wet.
Even the scores couldn’t have been more different (or more similar depending on the point of view) with Anderson County’s 2 p.m. game against Campbell County ending with a strong 10-0 shutout win for the Mavericks, while the Dragons, soaked and cold, lost 9-0 to the Central Bobcats.
Anderson County took an early lead in its game, with Hudson Hartgrove and Thor Williams leading the team on batting, knocking in three and two runners respectively, while Tanner Goins, with a big home run to start the season, batted in two.
Connor Martin led pitching for the Mavericks, going six innings and walking away with three strikeouts, as well as a WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) of 0.17. Martin also threw 14 first-pitch strikes.
Mavericks Coach Cory Stooksbury said the game went “about as expected for not playing for 365 days.”
“I think we had first-game adrenaline, some jitters, and nerves,” he said.
“I can’t complain though. These guys competed and had fun, and that’s what we told them before the game: ‘Play hard, play fast, have fun.’”
Still, Stooksbury said there were definitely things he was pleased with, and the team exceeded his expectations in some ways.
“Tanner Goins hit the ball out of the park,” he said. “Connor Martin was great. He threw just under 70 pitches in six innings so that’s pretty good efficiency. The defense made plays and we were actually a little cleaner than I thought we would be. “
Across the bridge, the Dragons struggled against Central after a strong start under pitcher Blake Lowe. The game became a grueling, cold, muddy affair in the third inning as the Dragons fell further and further behind.
That being said, head Coach Rob Stacy said he’s pleased with how it went, and he’s proud of the boys.
“I felt it went really well,” he said. “We felt like it was a 5-0 game. There were mistakes of course, some balls that should have been caught. Our pitching staff did a good job. We had a freshman catcher in there, a sophomore shortstop, a sophomore in left, and a lot of guys that are seniors who haven’t played in three years.
“I’m excited for these guys,” he said. “They executed everything we told them to. I know the scoreboard says 9-0, but Central is one of the best-coached teams in our district. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season and I told the guys, ‘Hey don’t hang your heads. You did everything we asked you to do today.’ The rest of the year will be exciting.”
Stacy said he was really pleased with several of his players, including the pitchers the team rotated.
“Colby Holbrook coming in at the end and keeping the game where it was really stood out,” he said. “He’s asked for the ball all season and he’s going to get it again after that performance. Blake Lowe kept us in the game for four innings, and Isaiah Slaven, coming in with bases loaded and getting a strikeout. That’s a lot for a freshman. He walked someone, but that’s to be expected of a freshman.”
Stacy said his coaching staff went a long way in helping take the pressure off of him for the game, and he wanted to thank them specifically.
“Guys like Jackson Arnold, Griffin Tate, Jake Stone. They all did a heck of a job as a coaching staff, and Arnold did a great job calling pitches for this game. They’re all going to make great head coaches one day, but I’m glad to have them here with me now.”