The Boyle County Rebels knew what they were missing.
Boyle struggled to string wins together in the first half of the season largely because it struggled to score runs, but that has started to change now. Big hits and big innings have led to a spike in the Rebels’ offensive production, and they got both on Tuesday, scoring seven runs in the second inning to defeat Anderson County 8-2 at Rebel Field.
Runs have been coming in bunches lately for Boyle, which has won six of its last eight games, and the Rebels say it’s not a moment too soon.
“The offense is clicking right now,” Boyle catcher Clay Young said. “We’ve just been hitting the ball and having the right attitude about it. And the thing that killed us early on was strikeouts, and I think we’re cutting that down a little bit. We’re putting the ball in play, and good things happen when you put the ball in play.”
Young belted a three-run double to center field for the biggest blow in Boyle’s big inning Tuesday.
The Rebels scored eight runs or more only three times in their first 17 games, when they averaged 4.05 runs per game. But they have put up at least eight runs five times in their last eight games, and they are 6-2 in that stretch with an average of 8.38 runs.
“I brought them in and asked them, ‘What was our one weakness at the beginning of the year?’ and without a doubt, it was unanimous that we weren’t hitting the baseball,” Boyle coach Kyle Wynn said. “I feel confident with our bats, and you put all three of them (hitting, pitching and defense) together and I feel pretty confident coming down to postseason time.”
Young said he was confident that the Rebels would get untracked.
“I was like, ‘We’ve got to hit better than this.’ I knew we could turn it around, and once the bats started warming up, we just started beating teams,” he said. “For our team, hitting is definitely contagious. Once one guy hits, the next one gets up there and it just keeps going on and on. That’s what strings a nice, big inning together.”
Wynn said not hitting was also contagious for a time.
“Slumps are more mental than anything, and it was across the board,” he said. “I think this game is so contagious, and if one guy’s hitting the rest of the team is.”
That was the case in the second inning Tuesday, when Boyle (14-13) sent 11 batters to the plate to build a big lead in the first of three straight home games in a four-day span.
Billy Joe Bryington opened the inning with a single, and he capped the scoring with an RBI double to chase Anderson starter Zach Mason, who walked three batters in the inning. Between those blows, there was an Anderson error that led to five unearned runs, an RBI single by Jacob Pike, a two-run single by Jacob Preston and Young’s two-out, bases-clearing double.
The seven-run inning gave Boyle pitcher Casey Whittle all the lead he would need. Whittle allowed only two hits and two walks in a complete-game win.
“I feel good with Casey on the mound. Casey’s pitched in some of our bigger games, and it’s almost to the point where I expect that effort from him now,” Wynn said.
The only two batters who got hits off Whittle came around to score for Anderson (12-12), Cole Sayre on a suicide squeeze in the second inning and Landon Case on an error in the fourth. But Boyle’s ace didn’t allow a runner to get past first base in the last three innings.
“He’s a workhorse out there,” Young said. “I like the way he works. He was hitting the zone, his curveball was looking nice. He’s just got a will to compete, always ready to play out there, and I love him to death.”
In addition to Bryington, Preston had two hits for Boyle. The Rebels scored their first run in the first inning when Pike led off with a walk, stole second base, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Kody Ross’ groundout.
Anderson County 010 100 0 — 2 2 3
Boyle County 170 000 x — 8 6 1
Zach Mason, Darren Laswell (2) and Brice Stockton. Casey Whittle and Clay Young. W—Whittle. L—Mason. 2B—Cole Sayre (AC), Clay Young (BC), Billy Joe Bryington (BC).