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HILLSVILLE –– The start of the district baseball schedule is always worthy of attention, especially if it involves the two teams picked 1-2 in the league. Sometimes there is just a little something to make it a tad more interesting.
Friday, it was the kid on the mound for Tazewell.
Zak Wasilewski, who signed with two-time defending national champion South Carolina, added a gawk factor to what would have been an intriguing matchup anyway, and the hard-throwing lefty came out on top as his Bulldogs managed a 4-1 in over the Cavaliers at Bill Worrell Field.
The amount of unusual attention paid to an early-April game was evident by the arsenal of radar guns aimed at the mound at the bottom half of each inning, and Wasilewski did his part by hitting 90 on the gun. Though he didn’t entirely blow the Cavaliers away, he did finish with 14 strikeouts, including seven straight in the latter part of the game as he began to find his rhythm.
“He had a tough time the first couple of innings,” Tazewell coach Lou Peery said. “He wasn’t really loose and didn’t have a whole lot of stuff, but he made a good outing out of a bad start.”
The two things Carroll County (6-6, 0-1) needed to happen didn’t – the Cavaliers had to capitalize on what was expected to be a limited number of scoring chances, and they had to make all their plays in the field.
Three of Carroll’s first four batters reached base but the Cavaliers came up empty in the bottom of the first. In the top of the third, Tazewell loaded the bases on three ground balls that never left the infield, including one error and a tricky hop on another grounder. The Bulldogs took the lead on a wild pitch that scored Robbie Martin, and Dylan Crouse delivered a two-run double down the rightfield line for a 3-0 Tazewell lead.
“We didn’t make the play here, and we didn’t make the play there, and the next thing you know we’re down three runs,” Cavalier coach Joe Tompkins said.
Carroll County did manage to cut into the deficit in the bottom of the inning when Reese Edwards walked and stole second, scoring on Brandon Lineberry’s liner into center.
Carroll had a runner at second with one out in the bottom of the fourth but Wasilewski began a streak of seven straight strikeouts.
“His fastball came around,” Peery said. “We work everything off of the fastball, and if you can’t get your fastball down, and he was throwing it all high, so I was giving him a lot of curveballs and changeups to get his arm slot down a little. It finally came around and it made his curveball look better.”
Tazewell capped the scoring with one out in the top of the fifth when Ryan Hankins drilled a solo home run to leftfield for a 4-1 Bulldog lead.
Cavalier starter Garrett Nelson left after the fifth, surrendering three earned runs on seven hits, striking out five.
“Garrett pitched well enough,” Tompkins said. “We just didn’t give him a whole lot of help, either at the plate or in the field.”
Held to singles by Ryan Gravley, Jordan Worrell and Lineberry through six innings, Carroll County did manage to bring the tying run to the batters’ box in the seventh. Cody Thompson led off with a base hit and Logan Hodges bunted for a single with one out. The runners advanced to second and third on a wild pitch, but Wasilewski got a strikeout and a ground ball to end the game.
Recruited as much for his bat as his arm, Wasilewski had three of Tazewell’s eight hits, including pulling an outside pitch for a double off of the 360-foot right-centerfield fence in the top of the first.