Walker Valley baseball coach Joe Shamblin couldn’t have been happier if he’d been standing on a South Carolina beach in 80 degree weather, even though a band of snow was blowing across the diamond at Mike Turner Field.
Shamblin and the Mustangs had just evened the score against East Hamilton after a Monday loss to the Hurricanes.
“It’s not my favorite weather to play in,” Shamblin said if the 3-0 district win, “But I’d play in weather like this every day if I felt we could get a win. This really lifted my spirits.
“This was a big one for us. We were 1-4 in the district and we’re trying to stay in the pack at least. It was big for us and for our kids to know they can beat a team like East Hamilton.”
The Mustangs, who have struggled at the plate and in the field for the better part of the still-early season, came through with big hits in key situations to get the victory.
“We’ve been playing snakebit the last few games, maybe we won’t be snakebit anymore,” said Shamblin who battled a virus Monday night and all day Tuesday. “I feel a lot better. That eight-hour drive will be a lot easier than it would be if we lost.”
The Mustangs left the Walker Valley campus to play in the Pinewood Classic in Summerville, S.C., immediately after the game.
Senior right-hander John Simmons picked up his second win of the year, pitching through the snow to strike out seven Hurricanes while issuing three walks in the complete game shutout.
East Hamilton again outhit the Mustangs, 7-5, but this time around the Walker Walker Valley defense did a better job backing up Mustangs pitching.
“John did a great job. He kept them off balance for most of the game; I’m proud of him. We still have a little work to do in the field and with the bats, but we’re going to get there,” Shamblin said of the young Herd who committed three errors on the day. “We are a young team and we’ve got a way to go, but hopefully by the end of the year we will be where we want to be.”
Simmons and East Hamilton’s Hunter Smith battled one another for four innings before the Mustangs broke through with two runs in the bottom of the fifth.
The Mustangs put two runners on with no outs when Dillon Church led off with a walk and Elijah West beat out a bunt to put Mustangs on first and second. A wild pitch and passed ball gave Walker Valley a 2-0 lead.
The Mustangs made it 3-0 in their next at bat when Simmons cracked a double to left field. Stu Clark got the RBI with a single to left center.
The Hurricanes missed a chance to score in the third when the Mustangs surprised an East Hamilton runner trying to reach third after moving to second on a bunt single by Matt Milita. The ’Canes squandered another opportunity in the top of the fifth when Mustangs catcher Brian Oliver nailed a Hurricane diving back to the bag at third.
“We got a few timely hits today and executed our bunts and did some things that helped us out,” said Shamblin.
“In our district anybody can beat anybody on a given day. When you do the little things right you’ve got a good chance of scratching a few runs across, especially with John on the mound. We knew John would give us a chance. We feel comfortable when he’s on the mound.”
WALKER VALLEY 3, HURRICANES 0
East Hamilton 000 000 0 — 0 7 0
Walker Valley 000 021 x — 3 5 3
WP: John Simmons (2-0). LP: Hunter Smith. 2B: Simmons. Highlights: Hunter Parker 2-3 (EH); Bradley Smith 2-3 (WV). Records: East Hamilton 6-5, 2-2 5-AAA; Walker Valley 5-8, 2-4.