Jackets knocked out of title race
Hayesville’s varsity baseball squad entered last week knowing that a share of the Smoky Mountain Conference championship was on the line. The Yellow Jackets needed a win over Rosman and Murphy to set up a three-way tie for the title. As fate would have it, those were the two teams on Hayesville’s schedule. The Jackets kept their championship dreams alive with a 3-2 win over Rosman. Then in a must-win, Hayesville’s bats went cold and Murphy swatted the Jackets’ title chances 2-0.
Jacket Nation flocked into D. Scott Penland field Tuesday to watch coach Jeff Vardo’s squad take on the conference leading Rosman Tigers. Things went Hayesville’s way early with three Jackets runs in the bottom of the first inning. Hayesville’s pitching and defense kept the Tigers off the board until the third inning when Rosman managed to score twice, making the score 3-2 in the Jackets’ favor.
The game turned into a pitchers’ duel with neither team scoring again. Tyler Leek, Kyle Rhinehardt and Brian Voight accounted for Hayesville’s three hits with Rhinehardt driving in one and Voight pushing two runs across the board. Leek also had the Jackets’ lone stolen base and teamed up with sophomore Nathan Barolet on the mound to keep Rosman’s run total to two on four hits and combined for nine strikeouts. The 3-2 win kept Hayesville’s winning streak alive as well as their hopes of a conference championship.
Hayesville was again in front of their home crowd as they faced off with rival Murphy. The significance of the game was not lost on Jackets fans. “This will be a good game,” said Hayesville fan Mark Carter. As the game played out, Carter’s prediction did, too.
The two adversaries seemed evenly matched throughout the seven innings with neither team able to put the game out of reach. Barolet got the start on the mound for Hayesville and did an outstanding job. They rightly gave up only two runs on three Bulldog hits with six strikeouts over his six innings pitched. Leek came on in the seventh and kept Murphy from putting another run on the board.
The Jackets’ hit total of five was better than Murphy, but Hayesville couldn’t string the hits together to result in a run. The Bulldogs got the win and in doing so, guaranteed there will be a new SMC champion.
The loss doesn’t end Hayesville’s season. Jackets fans can see the team at home Thursday, April 14 against Rabun Gap - Nacoochee. Hayesville then hits the road Tuesday, April 19 to face Blue Ridge, N.C. and Rabun Gap- Nacooche Wednesday, April 20. Games are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m.