East Hamilton’s Matty Henshaw threw a dominating three-hitter, freshman shortstop Nicholas Woods went 3-for-4 and drove in both runs as the Hurricanes edged Ooltewah, 2-1, in District 5-AAA baseball action Monday night at A.C. Bud Ball Field.
The Hurricanes (13-6, 5-2) took the first game in a home-and-home series that will conclude on Wednesday at Chattanooga State at 6 p.m. The game was scheduled for Tuesday but Chattanooga State coaches informed Hurricanes coach Steve Garland the field would still be too wet to play.
East Hamilton’s victory creates a four-team logjam at or near the top of the district standings among four two-loss teams. Soddy-Daisy has a 6-2 record. East Hamilton and Ooltewah are each 5-2 and Bradley Central is 4-2.
“In my opinion, this was an important win coming in the first game against them,” Henshaw said. “Hopefully, this sets the tone for another win when we play them again.”
Henshaw (2-0) retired the first nine before Ooltewah catcher Brody Binder crushed a towering home run to left-center field on the first pitch of the fourth inning for a 1-0 lead.
But that was the only damage the Owls (10-6, 5-2) managed off Henshaw, who struck out five and walked one in a complete-game duel with Ooltewah left-hander Logan Fugate.
“I was very proud of Matty,” East Hamilton coach Steve Garland said. “He had a slow start to the season, but he’s found his rhythm in the last three games, giving up just one run in 21 innings, all in district games.”
Henshaw threw 89 pitches, 57 for strikes.
Only two Owls got hits off the smooth-throwing right-hander and the other seven hitters in the lineup went 0-for-21.
“I wanted to pound the (strike) zone and make them hit what I was throwing,” Henshaw said. “I never changed that plan, but props to Body for hitting that one ball out.
East Hamilton center-fielder Hunter Parker drew a two-out walk in the fifth, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch before scoring on Woods’ single to center and tying the game at 1-1.
Parker opened the seventh with a double to center field where Bryson Owen chased the ball down – he fell to his knees in a pool of water left by overnight rain. Matt Milita’s bunt pushed Parker to third and he scored on Woods’ third straight single of the game.
Hunter Owen followed with a line-shot double down the left field foul line. Owls outfielder London Elrod retrieved the ball as Woods rounded third and fired to shortstop Mitch Duncan, who turned and threw a strike to Binder at home for the tag on Woods ending the inning,
It was a sweet performance for Woods, whose older brothers Zack and Jeremy played at Ooltewah during their high school days.
“This really feels great,” Woods said. “I watched Ooltewah play most of my life and I know a lot of their guys. I was seeing the ball well and hit it well tonight.”
Garland likes what he’s seeing from his newcomer this season.
“Nicholas was clutch tonight,” the coach said. “He’s really fit in with this team and he’s playing like a veteran.”
Henshaw worked out of a bases-loaded mess in the sixth, inducing freshman Bradley Malcolm into an inning-ending groundout.
The Owls went down in order in the seventh – Owen flied out, Kyle Kapherr grounded out and London Elrod struck out.
Binder collected two of Ooltewah’s three hits and Hayden Bradley had the other one, a two-out, fourth-inning single.
“(Henshaw) worked us away and found his spots,” Binder said. “And their defense played great behind him. It was just one of those games. We hit the ball right at their guys and they didn’t. That’s baseball.”
The Owls suffered their fourth one-run loss and second in a row. On Saturday, third-ranked Siegel ran it winning streak to 14 games with a 1-0 win over Ooltewah, which got only three hits against the once-beaten Stars.
Owls coach Brian Hitchcox had no trouble praising Henshaw and his own pitcher, Logan Fugate.
“Credit Henshaw for dictating the game,” Hitchcox said. “He pretty much dominated every inning except one and didn’t giving us many scoring opportunities. It was really more of what he did than what we didn’t do.
“Fugate pitched well enough to win. They got back-to-back walks and scored their first run and got some hits in the seventh when they scored again. And our defense played well enough, too. But when you get only three hits you’re not going to beat a good team.”
Fugate, who allowed five base runners over the first four innings, yet still had a shutout going, gave up all nine East Hamilton hits. He struck out nine and walked four – he fanned five Hurricanes in the first three innings.
The Owls’ No. 1 starter threw 116 pitches, 71 for strikes. Despite facing five hitters in the seventh, Fugate threw only 11 pitches, eight in the strike zone. He failed to strike out a Hurricanes batter in only one inning – the fourth.
Henshaw singled with one out in the fourth. However, Matt Watters lined out to right-fielder David Lopez, who whipped a throw to first to nail courtesy runner Nick Gratigny – he was off and running when the ball was hit – trying to get back to first for the double play.
Ooltewah simply failed to muster enough offense in support of the senior left-hander.
“But I gave up nine hits and I didn’t think I threw that well,” Fugate said. “At the end they started hitting the ball really well. To lose the lead was tough and hard to deal with because nobody likes to lose.”
Offensively, Fugate, one of the Owls top hitters, went 0-for-3. He lined out to second in the first, flied out to center in the fourth and reached on Woods’ error in the sixth.
“Other than Brody, nobody really swung the bat well,” Fugate said. “I think we should have jumped on Henshaw’s fastball a little quicker. I think we were scared and let the nerves get to us a little bit because it was a rivalry game.
“Everybody was trying to do too much.”
East Hamilton 000 010 1 – 2 9 1
Ooltewah 000 100 0 – 1 3 0
Henshaw and Fahler; Fugate and Binder.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)