There’s something to be said about comfort on a baseball field: For a pitcher, a batter or a team in general.
With three-year starter Tyler King on the mound Tuesday, Nash Central was at ease despite facing a rival with a seven-game winning streak at Northern Nash High School. More relaxed at the plate, center fielder Khalil Macklin has found his power stroke – despite not looking for it – after hitting just one home run last season.
Behind their two senior leaders, the Bulldogs were able to hold off a late surge from Northern Nash and hold on to a 3-1 victory.
“We’re real relaxed,” said Macklin, who led off the third inning with a home run. “Once we get that run, we know TK is going to come in and do his job and throw strikes.”
Macklin, who hit his fifth home run of the season, blasted the third pitch he saw in the third over the left-center field fence. David Sutton scored later in the inning on a single by King, but the Bulldogs (5-5, 2-1 Big East) weren’t entirely safe.
Nash Central didn’t record a hit after the third inning, and Northern Nash (8-3, 2-1), which had built its winning streak behind timely hits, finally came around offensively.
The Knights worked a run across in the fifth, before an unlikely player answered for Nash Central. With two out, nine-hole batter Jake Jones, the Bulldogs’ first baseman, worked a walk and eventually came around to score in the sixth – making the Bulldogs content again.
“You give a good pitcher like Tyler a two-run lead, and that’s enough,” Northern Nash coach Leonard Allen said. “... That’s all he needs. It’s like a lot of pitchers in this league.”
All King needed was a small lead, something he has dealt with plenty this season. Confident in the defense behind him, King pitched to contact more than his first conference start – striking out just seven and earning six ground-ball outs. Having that ace on the mound can make all the difference.
“A lot of guys have more confidence when you’ve got that one guy on the mound,” Allen said. That (was) true when I played and all the years I’ve been coaching.
“You’ve got that one guy, when the other guys know that, ‘Hey, we stand a good chance of winning,’ they just play loose. ... It makes all the difference in the world.”
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Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org