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BASEBALL: McConnellsburg staves off Southern Fulton behind Taylor Souders' 5-hitter

WARFORDSBURG >> Ever since McConnellsburg's baseball team played Tussey Mountain last Thursday, Taylor Souders has been wanting to redeem himself.

"In the Tussey Mountain game, I sucked," Souders said. "This was only my second time pitching (and first time starting), so I was just throwing as hard as I could."

Souders proved himself worthy on Thursday afternoon. He found the strike zone, scattered five hits and didn't give up any earned runs in the complete-game effort, helping Spartans take down Southern Fulton, 3-2, in Sideling Hill League/Inter-County Conference action.

"He threw a wonderful game," McConnellsburg coach Brian Ramsey said. "He located his pitches and mixed his speed up well. He was a little tight there at the end, but he dealt with it well."

Souders also got the Spartans (5-1, 5-1 SHL, 5-0 ICC) out of a few jams, and drove in an insurance run in the top of the seventh inning that proved to be important.

Southern Fulton (5-2, 4-1 SHL, 3-1 ICC) faced a 2-0 deficit before getting some help in the bottom of the sixth inning. Tristan Douglas and Dillan Lashley opened the inning by reaching base on a pair of Spartan errors. Trent Rider hit an RBI single, but then McConnellsburg clamped down to get three straight outs, including a throw out at third base and a strikeout from Souders.

"My defense is solid; we just need to relax our nerves," Souders said. "When we get that under control, we're good. Your mentality is that you want your defense to do the work, but you want to do the most you can for them, so that's what I did."

Rider, the Southern Fulton ace, threw a solid game. After giving up three hits in the first two innings, he allowed just one over the next four. Rider also racked up 13 strikeouts and, at one point, fanned seven straight Spartans.

"My fastball actually picks up as the game goes on, because I get looser and looser," Rider said. "But I started the game off slow, and I wasn't hitting my spots well on my fastballs, which hurt me. They didn't hit very hard hits; they were just slapping at the ball, so it was unfortunate."

Southern Fulton coach Dustin Fischer said, "I don't think he had his best stuff early on, but he really settled in. Unfortunately, by that point, it was 2-0. He didn't get the offensive support that he deserved or needed, and that sucks."

Despite giving up a run to the Spartans in the top of the seventh, the Indians didn't count themselves out. With one out, Zach Clark reached on an error, and Connor Litton followed with a fielder's choice. Dylan Gordon then smashed a double to left-centerfield, and Litton motored all the way home.

Gordon attempted to take third on the play at the plate, but a throw from catcher Ryan Koontz to Landon Richards nailed him and ended the game.

"Honestly, I was watching the play at home, thinking it was going to be close," Fischer said. "I saw the ball got tipped by the pitcher, and I turned, and Gordon was like already halfway, fully committed, and I just thought, 'Well, here we go. What's going to happen?' It was really close."

McConnellsburg's J.T. Barnard was the only player for either team with multiple hits. He went 2-for-3 and drove in the Spartans' two early runs.

"It looked like he was really short with his swing to the ball," Ramsey said. "He had two strikes on him both times. But we work on that, and we were fortunate that he got those two good swings to get us those runs."

McConnellsburg 3 Southern Fulton 2

McConnellsburgSo. FultonabrhbabrhbTSouders p4011Litton ss3100Novak ss 4110Gordon 3b4011Koontz c3110Douglas 2b2100Barnard 1b3022Lashley cf3010Welsh 2b3000Rider p3011Evertts dh3010Clngrmn cr0000Strait cf0000Elbin c3000Little rf3000McCuskr rf3010SSouders0100Lynch dh3010Richards 3b2010Potter 1b0000Miller lf2000Clark lf3000Crouse ph1000Totals28373Totals27252
McConnellsburg1010001—3So. Fulton0000011—2

E: McC 4, SF 1; LOB: McC 5, SF 6; 2B: Evertts, Gordon; SAC: Richards; SB: Novak, Koontz.

McConnellsburg pitching

T.Souders (W,1-0)752014

Southern Fulton pitching

Rider (L,2-1)6622013Potter111001

WP: T.Souders 2.

T: 1:42.