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HAHIRA — After Tuesday night’s loss against Deerfield-Windsor, Valwood coach Robert Shipman emphasized the importance of starting strong against teams.
The message was received Thursday night.
Jaharie Boone hit a home run in the first inning, Tayte Barry homered in the second inning and the Valiants recorded 11 hits in a 12-2 win against the Echols County Wildcats at Browning Field.
“We were prepared to be aggressive when were ahead in the count, and when we were behind in the count, we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do,” Shipman said. “…I was really satisfied with that, especially in a game leading up to another big region game. I think it was sorely needed.”
The next big region game is today, a rematch against Deerfield-Windsor. Thursday’s game offered the Valiants (4-2, 0-1 GISA Region 3-3A) valuable time to prepare.
Boone’s solo blast to right field tied the game at 1 after Echols (1-10, 1-7 GHSA Region 2-A) scored on an error in the top half of the frame.
“I had two strikes on me, so I just wanted to put it in play and it worked out better than I thought it would, I have no
complaints,” Boone said. “It felt good off the bat. It’s what I’ve been working up to this point and I’m glad it’s applying to the field.”
The Valiants took the lead for good in the second inning. Barry singled on a line drive to center field and advanced to third on the throw, allowing JM McRae to plate the go-ahead run.
Valwood pulled ahead 4-1 before Barry’s two-run homer across left field lifted the score to 6-1 with two outs in play. Barry used patience and observed Wildcats’ pitcher Jordan Nolan’s throws.
“I was just looking for it straight fastball and he threw me an outside fastball, then he came center cut and it was a beach ball,” Barry said.
Shipman praised Barry’s work in batting practice, saying a home run like the one he hit Thursday night was bound to happen sooner rather that later.
“We felt like he was just about to turn the corner,” the coach said. “When he turned it, he really turned it. …He’s going to be a power element for this team this year.”
Caleb Burns singled a ground ball to score Barry in the bottom of the fourth to extend the advantage to 8-1, before Sam Martin stole home to make it 9-1.
The Wildcats scored their final run in the fifth when Colt Cox singled to center and Hunter Morey hustled around third and scored.
Boone, Barry and McRae finished with two hits apiece. Barry added three RBIs and scored two runs. Colby McGee had two RBIs.
“Passed balls, dropped balls, missed balls… we took advantage of them,” Shipman said. “That’s how we have to play. We have to apply pressure.”
Dalton Stephens surrendered six hits for two runs with five strikeouts and two walks in 5 innings in a win for the Valiants. Tommy Davis tossed an inning in relief, striking out three.
Nolan took the loss for Echols. He lasted two innings after allowing six earned runs on six hits with two walks. Roberts threw three innings in relief, allowing six runs on five hits with six walks and four strikeouts.
The Wildcats finished with six hits, led by Cuyler Cox’s two and an RBI.
Valwood: Travels to Albany today for a 4:30 p.m. rematch against GISA Region 3-3A rival Deerfield-Windsor. Valwood lost to Deerfield in the team’s region opener Tuesday night in Hahira.