The Heritage baseball team got its season off to a rousing start Tuesday.
With the spring sports season delayed a day due to cold, wet conditions, the Mountaineers made up some time by run-ruling Blount County rival Alcoa 14-4 to kick off the season.
“That’s big,” Heritage head coach Robbie Bennett told The Daily Times. “I thought we played well defensively, (DJ) Cooper after the first inning I thought settled down and we settled down. … We stayed calm and we played better.”
Alcoa struck for three runs in the top of the first, using Griffin Livesay and Kaleb Cardwell one-out singles to setup the inning. Livesay and Cardwell both came around on errant pitches from DJ Cooper, who gave up a walk and another single before getting out of the first.
Cooper turned around and led off the bottom of the first with a single to set the table for a five-run first for the Mountaineers. The first five Heritage batters reached base, all five of whom came around to score.
“Each day we keep getting better and better swinging the bats,” Bennett said. “We’re young but I think we’re still going to swing it pretty good. We’ve got a lot of athletes.
“We’ve got some kids that can run this year, so it will be exciting. Reminds me some of that 2015 team we had.”
With a lead, Cooper was able to go to work. He settled in, striking out 10 Tornadoes and surrendering just one more hit before coming out after 5 2/3 innings of work.
“Without settling down, that game could have gotten more out of hand,” Cooper said. “Three runs can turn into 20 in one inning, so you just try to avoid big innings.
“Just got to throw strikes.”
The Mountaineers offense continued to give Cooper cushion. Heritage scored one in the second, two in the fourth, one in the fifth and blew the game open with five in the sixth to end the game a frame early.
The first three Mountaineer hitters in the sixth came around to score. Blake Cooper, who led the inning off with a single, ended the game with his second knock of the inning to drive in the final run of the game to put Heritage up 10.
Blake Cooper led the attack, going 3-for-3 with three singles, two walks, an RBI and four runs scored. Casey Haire was 3-for-4 with two singles, a double and two RBIs. Along with DJ Cooper, Heritage’ top three hitters in the lineup combined for seven hits and eight runs scored.
“I think we played really good,” Blake Cooper said. “We’re young but if we can do that I think we can do some big things. We’ll be all right.”
The season didn’t start as well for the Tornadoes. Starter Nick Robinson lasted two innings and was docked for six runs.
Ryan Whiteson and Thai Love didn’t fair much better, especially given the lack of run support.
Cardwell had one of the better days for Alcoa at the plate. He was 2-for-3 with two singles and a run scored.
Heritage 14, Alcoa 4
A .. 300 .. 001 .. - 4 6 2
H .. 510 .. 215 .. - 14 12 0
WP: DJ Cooper; LP: Nick Robinson
2B: Casey Haire
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