The Wildcats (3-0) are now perfect through three games, have scored at least 11 runs in all three and allowed a combined six runs to this point. Even with the early success, VR coach Jay Sneddon knows his team still has some steps to take before gearing up for region play in just over a week.
"Definitely things we need to work on, but that's what non-region games are for this early. We got to look at some different things. Still trying to find pieces to the puzzle, but maybe got a couple answers [Wednesday] we were looking for, so that's a good thing. I tell our guys we're 11, 12, 13 players deep on a daily basis, and you never know when you're going to get your opportunity so step up and make the most of it," Sneddon said.
Villa Rica jumped on the host Rebels (1-2) early with five runs in the first inning.
Stephen Kegley got a one-out single to start things and Mikey Palagano followed up with a single of his own before Lance Agan scored Devin Montgomery — Kegley's courtesy-runner — to open up the scoring. From there, a dropped third strike and a hit batter kept the inning going before Palagano scored on a wild pitch and Weston Smith and Zach Dutton scored on an error for the early 5-0 lead.
That inning put HC behind the 8-ball and took it out of the rhythm that had led to some success early in the season.
"That's a good team. They hit the ball real well and threw the ball well. We scratched a few runs across, I was proud of that. We spotted them five runs in the first inning, should have been out of that 1-0," HC coach Chris Wigley said. "We had five guys throw the ball real well [Wednesday]. I thought we pitched well enough to compete, we just didn't play defense behind it."
Wade Bailey scored the lone run of the second inning after he walked and scored following a dropped third strike.
The Rebels got on the board in the bottom of the third in a hustle play. With two outs and Alex Hammond on second, Lane Fortune hit a ground ball, but was able to beat the throw out at first and Hammond came all the way around to score, making it 6-1.
In the fourth, the Wildcats added three more, getting an RBI on a suicide squeeze from Dutton, a sacrifice fly from Michael Nolan and the third run scoring on a passed ball.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Rebels got back on the board when Micah Cramer led off with a double before Trevor Porter and Bryce Wrenn worked back-to-back walks. Mitchell Taylor would bring Cramer in on an RBI single, making it 9-2 before a double-play ball would bring home Porter.
The Wildcats capped off the scoring with five runs in the seventh after Bailey and Alex Holdbrooks had RBI doubles, Brandon Miller had an RBI single and Jared Farmer hit a two-run single. Bailey then struck out the side in the bottom of the inning to end the game.
Eight different VR players got hits with Palagano, Miller and Farmer getting multiple hits.
On the mound, the Wildcats got a strong starting effort from Kegley, going four innings and giving up just one run while striking out three. Paul Reeves, Colby Carnes, Holdbrooks and Bailey all came on in relief. It was Holdbrooks' effort that stood out. The freshman went an inning after coming in with the bases loaded and only allowed one run on a double play ball and got a strikeout.
"We kind of know who our starters are and we're trying to get to Wade late in games, but we've got to find out who's going to bridge that gap. We're throwing different people out there and Alex came in in a tough situation [Wednesday] and stepped up. That helps us going forward and maybe helps us answer that question," Sneddon said.
As the Rebels get ready to host New Manchester today at 5:30 p.m., they have to get back to what earned them a win in the first game and almost earned them a win in their second game, a one-run loss in 10 innings.
"We've swung the bat better and better in the first three games and the more pitching we see, the better we'll swing it. We've just got to get the wrinkles ironed out in the defense. We don't hit the ball well enough to give up those runs and our guys know that," Wigley said. "Our first two outings this year we played a lot better defense than we did [Wednesday]."