Redhawks suffer back-to-back losses

Jory Harrison dives back to first Saturday against Flora.

The Westwood Redhawks baseball team (2-14, 0-8) was at home last Friday to take on the number one team in Region IV-3A, the Falcons of A.C. Flora (8-5, 7-1). In addition to being the top team in the region, Flora is also the top ranked team in the state in all of class 3A, and they showed why Friday, stomping Westwood in five innings, 13-0. The Redhawks were their own worst enemy, committing six errors in the game and head coach Curtis Johnson knows his team didn’t play their best baseball against top level competition.

“They’re a very good baseball team,” Johnson said of the Falcons. “But we didn’t play solid defense or make the routine plays when we needed to.”

In the top of the first inning, with two runners on and two outs, the Westwood defense committed two errors and turned what could have been a scoreless inning into a 3-0 lead for the Falcons. Westwood’s offense was held at bay by Flora’s starting pitcher, Alexander Jenkins. The Redhawks never sent more than four batters to the plate in an inning as Jenkins threw five scoreless innings, giving up just three hits, no walks and striking out eight. In fact, Jenkins struck out five of the last six hitters he faced and struck out the side in the bottom of the fifth inning to end the game. After the game Johnson gave all the credit to the winning pitcher.

“Alex (Jenkins) has got a good arm and throws a breaking ball that has got a sharp bite on it,” Johnson said. “We’ve seen a lot of good arms in this region and he is one of them.”

Flora piled it on toward the end of the game, sending nine batters to the plate in the fourth and fifth innings. In the fourth, the Falcons scored four runs off four hits and two errors and in the fifth scored four runs off five hits and one error. Westwood starter Ray Branson was on the hook for the loss, giving up 13 runs (two earned) on 14 hits, one walk while striking out five. Despite being hampered with the loss Johnson believes Branson still showed positive signs.

“Ray threw well and he always gives us a chance to win,” Johnson said.

Branson has been on the hill for both of Westwood’s wins this season. The Redhawks were back on the diamond the very next day when they hit the road to do battle with the Cavaliers of Richland Northeast (11-9, 6-2) out of Region IV-4A. The Cavaliers overcame the Redhawks by a score of 9-2. Westwood starter Mark Keilly received the loss and Richland Northeast pitcher Zach Crumlich’s record remained unblemished as he earned his second win of the season. The Cavaliers were led offensively by Jake Mueller who was 3-for-3 at the plate with three runs batted in. Tonight the Redhawks travel to Lower Richland (8-5, 1-7) to play the Diamond Hornets. Westwood hopes to avenge a 7-2 loss to Lower Richland back on March 22.

The Redhawks lasted only five innings Tuesday night, falling to Camden at home 15-1.

Coach Johnson was hoping to capitalize on some of the team’s strengths.  “I think if we play defense and throw strikes we will be in the game,” Johnson said. “What’s been killing us lately is our defense.  Our pitching is pretty good, but we haven’t been playing defense.  Chad Smith will take the mound for us today.”

Camden’s head baseball coach, Denny Beckley, was not overconfident about this game, even after previously defeating the Redhawks 10-1.

“I never expect a game like that last one,” he said. “I know Coach Johnson does a good job teaching fundamentals and coaching fundamentals. Baseball is a strange game and every day is a new day.”

The Baseball game opened with a difficult first inning for the Redhawks.  The very first Camden batter took his base after being hit by a pitch.  The second batter singled and a double scored two runs for the Bulldogs.  Two more runs would score before Jalen Rice, holed up on first base, took too much of a lead and was picked off trying to get back to first base.

Westwood’s Matt Keily was walked, and the next three batters retired the side.  After a scoreless second, the third Inning began with a walk and a Bulldog player hit by a pitch.  Those two runners would score when Bennett Harrelson singled.  After a walk and another single by Rice, Harrelson came home to make it three Bulldog runs in the third inning.

The Redhawks only run came in the bottom of the third as a walk, a player hit by a pitch and a sacrifice fly brought in Kareem Wilson for the score.

The Bulldogs would go on to score four more runs in the fourth inning and three in the fifth.  Cole Irick crossed home plate the most at four runs for the Bulldogs.  The losing pitcher was Chad Smith, and the game winner was Austen Haney.