Prep baseball: Hensley, Redskins defeat Generals
WINFIELD, W.Va. -- A regular-season victory doesn't make up for a season-ending defeat, but as far as Hurricane is concerned, it's a good start.
Junior Austin Hensley outdueled Winfield senior Mason Dillon in a battle of not-so-sharp pitchers and the Redskins claimed a 5-2 victory in chilly, windy conditions over host Winfield (2-2) on Wednesday.
The last time these teams met, Winfield swept Hurricane in the sectionals, with Hensley getting the start, but not the decision, in the first game of the best-of-three series.
"It left a bitter taste in my mouth, getting taken out in the sixth inning (last year)," said Hensley, who threw 94 pitches and was removed when Hurricane led in the extra-inning game last May. "Coach told me before the game (today), this is my game, go out and get some revenge sort of. I took it personal."
Hensley wasn't sharp early for the Redskins (3-1), and neither was Dillon, a 2012 Class AAA All-State second-team selection.
Hensley, who is also the football team's starting quarterback, gave up three hits in the first inning, but survived by giving up only one run behind his defense, which threw out leadoff batter Brandon Wright trying to stretch a single into a double. Hensley gave up a single and hit a batter in the second inning and surrendered a single and an unearned run in the fourth. Otherwise, his final six innings featured 26 batters faced, three singles, five strikeouts and one walk.
"It's what, 40 degrees out here with the wind chill?" Hensley said. "It took me a while to get warmed up."
The most important difference, however, was Hurricane's approach at the plate and breaking through behind the meat of its lineup. Alex Estep hit into a double play in the first inning, but the No. 2 hitter started a two-out rally in the fifth inning with a triple before scoring on single by No. 3 batter Riley Metz.
Two innings later, Estep had his second consecutive two-out hit - a double. Metz followed with an RBI double and No. 4 hitter Tate Brock added a run-scoring double to put the game out of reach.
In four meetings with the Generals last season, Hurricane scored only once past the fifth inning in winning only once. In fact, Winfield held the Redskins to only one run past the fourth inning in their three defeats. Last season Dillon was 2-0 with nine strikeouts and three walks in 17 innings and an ERA of 0.82 against a Hurricane lineup that included two sophomores, a freshman and a junior.
"Everybody is patient and waiting for their pitch and when they see it, they're jumping on it," said Estep, who is batting .500 through four games. "We just tried to get the bat on the ball and see what happens."
Hensley said the approach isn't different, but some guidance from assistant Jon Meadows has helped.
"We've all worked on it," said Hensley, whose team had 11 batters out of 31 plate appearances see at least five pitches. "Coach Meadows says, 'Get your pitch, go up there and look for your pitch, don't make silly mistakes.'"
The season is young, but Hurricane is averaging four strikeouts in four games after being struck out an average of 5.6 times in 33 games last season.
"A lot of those guys are a year older and probably more confident," Hurricane Coach Brian Sutphin said. "They committed in the offseason, they worked really hard, they pushed each other."
Wright had a single and an RBI for Winfield, Jordan Clark had a single and a double and Josh Bumgarner had the Generals' only earned run against Hensley.
Connor Adams, Hurricane's No. 5 batter, had a single and a double.
"The season last year, obviously, did not end the way they wanted," Sutphin said.
"They think they're better than that and they want to come out and have a better year."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.