By BRIAN HUNSICKER
WOODBRIDGE – Hylton keeps scoring early runs, and Bulldog pitchers keep making the most out of them.
Hylton’s fast start this season has been aided by quick starts in almost every game. The Bulldogs have been able to gain early leads and put pressure on their opponents to catch up.
The strategy has worked so far – the Bulldogs boast a 10-2 record after Tuesday night’s 5-1 win over non-district foe Potomac.
While the Bulldogs’ offense gave them the lead, their defense set the table: In the top of the first, Potomac’s Matt Rainbolt reached third base with two outs. He took his lead, waiting for the delivery from Hylton pitcher John Bigley. After Bigley fired his pitch towards home, catcher Jonathan Colantuoni snapped a throw to third and picked off Rainbolt.
“I thought the turning point was that pick play,” said Bulldogs coach John Colantuoni. “We make the play, they get a goose egg and that’s big momentum for us.”
“In the first inning, we had the momentum and that call takes us out of the inning,” said Panthers coach Mike Covington. “It was all downhill from there.”
Immediately, that was the case for the Panthers (8-5). The Bulldogs’ first two batters reached via walk, and two batters later, Bigley made it 1-0 with an RBI single to score leadoff hitter Ryan Wood. Brian Ware-Colantuoni followed with another single that brought home Brian Antolick and Jerome Quinata, Bigley’s courtesy runner.
All of the runs came against Potomac starter Mark Shelor, who was pulled after he reloaded the bases. Rainbolt got out of the jam by striking out Hylton’s Nate Hartman, and pitched effectively the rest of the way.
The Bulldogs added single runs in the second and fifth innings.
Bigley made the most of the support. Besides Rainbolt, no other Potomac baserunner made it past second base until the final inning, when Bigley surrendered an unearned run. Potomac’s Brandon Clark, who had doubled with one out in the seventh, scored on a throwing error by Wood, the third baseman.
Bigley finished with 10 strikeouts and gave up only three hits.
“I was locating my fastball well. My junk was a bit all over the place, but I got some over for strikes,” Bigley explained. “The defense played a hell of a game, and my catcher had a great game.”
The game was quite a change for the Panthers, who got things going offensively in Monday night’s Cedar Run District win over Stonewall Jackson.
“Yesterday we swung the bat like a champion in a big win,” said Covington, “but today we came out a bit flat. We didn’t have any hop in our step, and we didn’t play well.”
And giving up the lead early didn’t help the Panthers’ strategy.
“Our whole game is built on speed, and when you take that away, it gets kind of rough,” Covington added. “We can’t rely on the big boppers to come up and hit three-run homers, because that’s not going to happen.”