(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
CHARLESTON -- Through the ups and downs of Charleston's regular season, Bluejays' head coach Michael Minner held to the belief that his team could pull everything together once they got into postseason play.
At least for one game, the Bluejays squad proved their coach right, playing nearly flawless ball against East Carter County in the opening round of the Class 2, District 2 Tournament on Saturday.
Getting a stellar performance from ace James Naile, who faced just two batters over the minimum, Charleston pumped out 12 hits on offense to knock off the Cardinals 10-0 in six innings on the mercy rule.
"James threw the ball tremendously on the mound today," Minner said. "We made a couple of great plays and we swung the snot out of the bats. That was a complete game and it's one of those things we've been working for all year."
Setting the tone for the Bluejays early on, Naile was in top form from the first pitch. Surrendering only one hit, a double by Dylan Nichols in the third inning, Naile struck out 13 of the 20 batters he faced without allowing a walk.
The only other batter to reach on Naile besides Nichols was the Cardinals' lead off hitter in the sixth, who got on base on a dropped third strike.
"He was on tonight," said Minner. He's well rested. James has thrown once a week so we've got him his rest and he's ready to compete in the postseason."
"All my pitches were working today," Naile said. "The defense worked behind me. We only gave up one hit together so it was just a good day."
On offense, Charleston jumped out to an early 2-0 lead when Marshall Stallings and Trey Watkins started the game with a pair of hits before scoring in the bottom of the first.
Coming back up in the second, Charleston batted around the order as part of a four-run rally to take a 6-0 lead.
Driving in the final two runs, Naile hit the game's only home run -- a two-run shot over the right field fence with no outs.
"It was a 3-2 pitch and I was just hoping for something over the plate," he said. "I put a good swing on it and luckily it went over."
Going up by nine entering the bottom of the sixth, the Bluejays would close out the game after three-straight batters reached to load the bases.
With no outs and no room for error, East Carter's pitcher walked lead off hitter Stallings to force in Corey Adams from third to end the game on the mercy rule.
Combining for 12 hits on the game, the Bluejays were led by Stallings and Watkins, as both went 3 for 4, contributing a triple and double respectively. Close behind, Naile finished with the game with two hits, including the above mentioned home run.
"Everybody up and down the order came through today," said Naile. "Whether it was the leadoff hitter or the No. 9 hitter we all swung the bats and it was just a good overall effort."
Added Watkins, "We just did what we had to do (to get the win). We've been waiting for this all year and we're just playing like a team, finally."
Though his team only had one hit on the game, Cardinals' coach Brock Crowley was pleased to see his team playing hard until the final out.
"Overall, I wasn't dissatisfied with our game because we did show some good things and we're still a pretty young team," he said. "I tell my guys all the time if they give it all they got, then that's all I can ask."
Charleston will now head to the tournament semifinals where they will play Greenville Tuesday at 2 p.m. at Hillhouse Park in Charleston.
East Carter 000 000 -- 0
Charleston 241 201 -- 10
WP -- James Naile. LP -- Dylan Nichols. 2B -- (EC) Chris Newman; (C) Trey Watkins. 3B -- (C) Marshall Stallings, Kamari Allmon. HR -- (C) James Naile.