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Aggressive offense got the Rockets started and relief pitchers kept them on top Friday night, when Shelby defeated visiting Anderson County, 16-6, in six innings.
“We know we played well, and we had a lot of things go our way,” Rocket Coach Bart Roettger said.
The victory over Anderson (11-8) is the Rockets' first in five meetings. The Bearcats are the two-time defending regional champions but had to replace eight seniors this season.
Shelby (15-9) jumped on sophomore pitcher Steven Watts in the first inning. Watts struck out the first two batters but then walked Eric Standafer. John Hunter singled, and Watts walked designated hitter Mark Swisher to load the bases.
Freshman Nate Clifton put SCHS on the scoreboard when his ground a hit between the shortstop and third baseman, the first of a 4-RBI night he had with two other singles.
Josh Dennison, leading off the second inning drove triple to the center-field fence, and as he was sliding into third, Bearcats shortstop Landon Case overthrew third. allowing Dennison to score.
Shelby scored twice more in the thid when Standafer came home on a passed ball and Watts hit his third batter of the inning, forcing in a run.
Watts was relieved by Jacob Russell in the fourth, but Shelby didn’t let up, scoring five runs in bottom of the fourth.
“Before the season, I knew our offense had a lot of potential,” Roettger said. “In the last four games we’ve started to see that come to fruition.”
He said it had been an interesting week for the team, with no games until Friday and all the talk of Collins Coach Roy Bailey Jr. being announced. But it worked out for the Rockets.
“We had a great week of practice,” he said. “They were focused.”
Starting pitcher Taylor Boone struck out the side in the first inning and had seven in four-plus innings for his third victory of the season, which was very near a quick one.
With a 10-0 lead in the top of the fifth, one out away from ending the game, Anderson County scored five runs. Jordan Bailey relieved Boone to end the inning.
“I think he [Boone] got tired and was trying to be too perfect,” Roettger said. “But he did a great job of mixing speeds. He’s a captain because of the intensity he has. Our guys feed off his tenacity.”
Shelby answered with two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Then Anderson came out and scored one run in the sixth. Trey Bailey relieved Jordan Bailey to hold the Bearcats and end the game early.
Roettger said he had not wanted to show Anderson all the Rockets' arms, but he said he was happy with his depth of pitchers.
In addition to Clifton, Tyler Tipton led the Rockets' offense. He had an RBI with two doubles and scored two runs. Swisher was 2-for-3 at the plate.
Defensively, the Rockets have done some juggling with positions, but it has worked out as the team has an average of one error per game for the last couple games.
Matthew Purdom has been filling in for an injured James Wright in right field, and Brandon Roberts has seen a lot of playing time at third base.
“He’s made a lot of nice defensive plays and hasn’t had any errors, and that’s allowed us to rest Taylor Boone [who also plays third],” Roettger said.
With the victory against Anderson, Shelby is undefeated in district play. The Rockets traveled to Spencer County Tuesday night.
A victory would secure the top seeding in the 30th district with just less than three weeks until the district tournament.