By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
SALTILLO – If Saltillo High’s baseball team received strong pitching performances all season like it’s been getting the past five games, then the Lee County club wouldn’t likely be sitting at two games below .500.
The important thing, noted Tigers coach Johnny Bolen, was that his pitching is coming around just in time for the start of Division 2-5A play, which Saltillo opens up on Tuesday at West Point.
“This is when you need to be playing (well) anyway,” said the veteran Saltillo coach. “So, we’ve had a good week and we’re ready to get it cranked up.”
Tyler Willis looked strong for the Tigers (4-6) on Saturday afternoon against Booneville, throwing a complete game to pick up his first win of the season. The senior right-hander (1-1) allowed six hits, struck out eight and walked two in the Tigers’ 4-1 victory at the Saltillo Spring Classic.
It marked the fourth win in five games for Saltillo.
“I believe that’s five games in a row now that we got a complete game out of our pitching,” Bolen said. “That’s the difference between early and now.
“Early we struggled pitching. Now they’re beginning to throw strikes. They’re throwing the ball well.”
The only blemish for Willis on Saturday came in the top of the fifth when he surrendered a leadoff solo homer to left field to eighth-place hitter Aaron Duncan. He then retired the next nine Booneville hitters in a row to close out the game.
Despite falling to 2-8 on the year, Blue Devils coach Bo Sandlin was pleased with his team’s pitching performance. In the midst of a shaky defense, Lee McCoy, Tyler White and Kyle Smith held the Tigers to nine hits.
However, four of the team’s five errors led to all four of Saltillo’s runs.
“We’ve kind of been playing around with doing the right things,” Sandlin said. “It’s obvious that our mistakes defensively are killing us. Right now, we’re kind of searching for who we are.”
With that being said, right fielder Adam Nichols saved two more runs from being scored in the bottom of the sixth when he made a diving catch in shallow right center to rob Cosby Repult of his third hit on the afternoon.
Nonetheless, Willis struck out the first two hitters of the seventh before getting Duncan to ground out to short to end the game.