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Local Sports

May 5, 2014

South offense wakes up angry

Neal homers twice in 11-1 rout of Middlesboro

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — A five-game stretch of quiet bats ended Friday for South Laurel with an 11-1 win over Middlesboro.

“It’s a little bit better. We relaxed a little bit more and put some offense together,” South Laurel coach Wynn Harris said.

In its last five games, South Laurel managed just five total runs. It was a big reason they lost four straight games after winning 14 of their first 16 games. Friday’s five-inning win over Middlesboro might mean the slump is over.

“We haven’t hit the ball bad in the last five games. We hit the ball right at some people and we saw some really good performances from the other pitchers. Tonight, this was our night. That’s the kind of team we can be,” Harris said.

Daniel Neal blasted two home runs, a solo shot in the first inning and a grand slam in the fourth. Neal also homered for the Cardinals only run Thursday in a 1-0 win over Southwestern. He now has five home runs for the season. Neal was the winning pitcher, allowing just one hit. Middlesboro’s only run scored in the first inning off a passed ball.

“Another good performance from Daniel Neal,” Harris said. “Our pitchers have really carried us all year and gave us opportunities even when we weren’t hitting.”

After the Yellowjackets first inning run, it would be all South Laurel. First it was Neal crushing a pitch to left field. A pair of walks set up an RBI single by Taylor Morris. Walks would be key in the 11 South Laurel runs. The Cardinals drew 12 walks against a pair of Middlesboro pitchers.

“That’s something we have been talking about in the last several days is pitch selection. Being able to hunt our pitch and know what we are looking for and stay with our plan.”

Middlesboro walked two batters in the second inning, but escaped with the help of a pickoff despite a double by Joe Gaines.

There would be no escape in the third inning. Brennan Miller stroked an RBI double and Neal followed with a two-run single.

The Yellowjackets changed pitchers in the fourth inning, but the results were worse. There were six walks in the inning, setting up a grand slam for Neal and giving him seven RBI for the night.

“He’s had a good approach, but he’s also had some games and series of at bats where he hasn’t done as well. These are kids. They are 16 and 17 years old. They are going to go through that. Even big leaguers go through slumps,” Harris said.

The Cardinals were scheduled to play a doubleheader against Williamsburg Saturday and at Knox Central tonight. Harris said the offensive explosion against Middlesboro might be just what his team needed.

“I think after two games it got in their head a little bit and they felt a little too much pressure,” Harris said. “The goal is to play your best baseball at the end of the year. Good thing it wasn’t the end of the year.”

mhoward@sentinel-echo.com

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