Thomas spins shutout for the Jackets
One hit was enough for one run and a 1-0 Lee County victory as Jacket junior Hampton Thomas pitched a four-hit complete game Friday afternoon at Panther Creek.
With Cole Patterson on second and two out in the Yellow Jacket fifth, Alex Scott got the critical hit, a single grounded into center for the only offense Thomas needed. With excellent command of his pitches and working from good counts most of the way, Thomas gave up no walks and struck out three for his first varsity shutout.
"My warm-up pitches were awful. After that, I was fine, but thank the Lord warm-up pitches don't count," Thomas said.
Thomas also thanked his teammates behind him for key defensive plays to close out the victory. The Catamounts put the ball in play against Thomas but never mounted a major threat.
In the home side's seventh, Scott, the Jacket shortstop, ranged deep into the hole to snare a backhand and make a great throw over to first for the second out.
After Patrick Morgan's bloop single down the left field line, then a passed ball to put the tying runner into scoring position, Thomas got the final out but it was close when Jake Wilson sent a liner toward left-center field.
"I thought it was a hit," Thomas said.
Center fielder Anthony Johnson raced over into the gap to make a head-high catch on the run.
"A.J. was spectacular for us today. He does a great job and he got a great jump on that one," Thomas said.
The last one was Johnson's fifth putout of the game and eighth by the Lee County outfield for Thomas.
The Jackets needed each one as Panther Creek pitchers Austin Dellostretto, who started and went five innings, and Jordan Hockaday kept Lee County quiet except for Scott's RBI single.
"I'm disappointed in the way we swung the bats, but we were fortunate to get one," said Lee County head coach Charlie Spivey.
"(Thomas) threw some really good games for us last year," Spivey said, "but he'd had some arm trouble and we'd shut him down for about two weeks (during the preseason)."
No matter how the Jackets put the win together, though, it made for a fine end to a five-game road stretch to start the season, in part because of home dates which have gone by the boards due to weather. Lee County (2-3, 2-1) won 7-4 at Apex Wednesday night.
"Any win we get is a confidence builder," Spivey said, "especially in conference. It's a tough league, so to get two road wins in a row is huge."
Lee County will make another try at a home opener on Tuesday, hosting Green Hope at 7 p.m. While getting to bat last, Spivey knows there's no easy stretch in a Tri-Nine season.
"We've got five conference games in the next two weeks. We have to keep grinding," he said. "We know we'll have a fight every night we play."