Rockdale County High School pitcher Tyler Page scattered three Salem hits over seven innings, and third baseman Will Hardy went 3-for-3 with two RBIs as the Bulldogs defeated the Seminoles 7-3 in a non-region game Thursday.
With the victory, Rockdale improved to 11-9 on the season. Salem fell to 7-11 for the 2014 campaign.
“He (Page) does well out there. He’s a competitor,” Bulldogs Coach Justin Arrington said. “He mixes his speeds up well and keeps them (the batters) off balance, so that helps us out big-time. He keeps the defense involved and makes them make plays, and you can’t ask for much more than that.”
Salem got on the scoreboard first in the top of the second inning after designated hitter Jason Howell reached base on a throwing error. Page hit the next batter, putting runners on first and second with no outs. A Ryan Reed fielder’s choice left runners at the corners with one out and right fielder Cole Gibson hit a sacrifice fly to center that scored Jason Howell, putting Salem up 1-0. Page picked Reed off first base for the final out of the inning.
Salem added another run in the top of the third inning as Ndiayemon Harris reached base after Bulldogs’ left fielder Terrell McLaughlin dropped Harris’ popup. Harris stole second and was driven home on centerfielder Jordan Scott’s single, giving the Seminoles a 2-0 lead.
Rockdale got to Salem pitcher Tiwann Head in the bottom of the third inning as Bulldogs’ centerfielder Yancey Freeny led off with a single. Hardy followed with another base knock single, and Malachi Eskin drove in Freeny and Hardy with a triple that rolled to the wall after Salem leftfielder Kevin Barham lost the ball in the late afternoon sun. Eskin later scored on Gibson’s throwing error, giving the Bulldogs a 3-2 lead.
After popouts by Jeff Sweat and McLaughlin, Rockdale rightfielder Jelani Clarington smacked a double into the left-centerfield gap. He scored when Barham dropped the potential third out on a lazy pop fly by Page, and Rockdale led 4-2 after three innings.
McLaughlin provided the defensive highlight of the game as he made a sprawling, diving catch to rob Salem’s Gibson of extra bases, and a certain RBI, preserving the 4-2 lead through four innings.
After Page retired the Seminoles in order in the top of the fifth, Rockdale struck for three more runs in their half of the inning.
McLaughlin led off with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch by Salem relief pitcher Barham. After Clarington struck out, Page walked, putting two runners on. Second baseman Thomas Parker walked, loading the bases, and catcher Davis Foster singled, driving in McLaughlin. Harris followed with
a single that drove in Parker and Foster, putting the Bulldogs up 7-2 after five.
Salem added a run in the top of the sixth as Scott drew a walk. Page balked moving Scott to second, and after Head flied out to left, Scott, who had stolen third, scored on a double by Howell, cutting Rockdale’s lead to 7-3.
“We didn’t do a good job of adjusting,” Salem coach Chad Kitchens said. “It’s hard to describe why we didn’t hit the ball? Maybe we used up all of our runs last night. We scored 18 runs in three innings last night (against Clark Central). We still just struggle with runners in scoring position.”