HOLDEN – The best way to sum up Saturday’s game between Albany and Holden and how it went for both teams, take for instance Joey Smith’s at-bat during the fourth inning.
That’s when the Albany catcher crushed a two-run home run off Holden’s Dustin Rushing during a six-run burst that helped spark an 11-0 win over the Rockets in five innings.
The Hornets had 13 hits while Brock Bennett hurled a two-hitter with eight strikeouts.
“Our offense has been playing pretty well lately, and it showed up,” Albany coach Gabe Woods said. “Dustin is a quality arm. He struggled a little bit finding the strike zone, and whenever he did find the strike zone, we did a good job putting barrels on the baseball. It was a good outing.”
Holden coach David White had nothing but praise for the Hornets.
“You tip your hat to Albany,” he said. “They hit Dustin probably harder than anybody’s hit him in three years. They did a good job. I think the first five runs they scored (were) with two outs. They came through with clutch hits, and we didn’t make pitches.
“It was just a good, old country butt-whipping there. That’s all that was. Sometimes you’re the hammer, and sometimes you’re the nail, I guess. We were the nail today.”
Albany led 5-0 going into the top of the fourth when Brock Bankston, who went 4-for-4 with an RBI and a run, singled to set up Smith, who launched a home run deep into the wooded area in left field to make it 7-0.
“I’ve just been seeing the ball good here lately,” Smith said. “He left it over the plate. He just left it right down the middle.”
“That’s one of the furthest balls I’ve seen hit out of this place,” White said. “He hit that a long, long way.”
White lifted Rushing for Layne Sykes, and Donovan Giamalva and Acey Martin walked, setting up Ethan Nelson’s single to center for an 8-0 lead.
DJ Brumfield’s two-run double to right made the score 10-0, and with one out, Slade Bankston’s sacrifice fly to center made it 11-0.
Holden (13-9) missed its best chance to score in the bottom of the fourth when Rushing led off with a walk and Cole Forbes was hit by a pitch to start the inning.
Bennett, however, struck out the side, and the Rockets left runners at second and third end the inning.
“By then, they’ve already stretched it out a little bit, and the kids kind of lose focus a little bit,” White said. “I think it would have been important to answer back after they score those first three runs and at least get something on the board. We talk about that a lot – answering back – and the kid (Bennett) did a good job and made sure we didn’t do that. We didn’t string anything together. That’s a good team. They can hit.”
It was a trend for Bennett, who struck out a pair in both the second and third innings, stranding three runners.
“Honestly, everything kind of worked,” Bennett said. “I don’t mean to brag, but I didn’t really have a pitch that wasn’t working for me today.”
Woods praised Bennett’s effort.
“That’s big out of him, especially heading into the playoff situation,” Woods said. “We have two good arms in Reid (Rayborn) and Donovan (Giamalva). For Bennett to hold down that third spot and throw as well as he did heading into the playoffs, that’s awesome. That’s exactly what we need out of him. We need him to be at his best at this time of the year, and he’s showing it.”
Albany got started early as Slade Bankston and Brock Bankston singled, setting up Giamalva’s two-out single for a 1-0 lead.
The Hornets padded the lead in the second as Nelson led off with a walk, and DJ Brumfield singled, setting up Bennett’s single with two outs to drive in a run. Brock Bankston’s two-run double down the third base line pushed the lead to 4-0.
Slade Bankston’s single in the third made the score 5-0.
“They did exactly what we try to preach to do,” Woods said. “(We) tell them to go win every inning – don’t settle, don’t get relaxed at any point during the game. They did an awesome job of that.”
Slade Bankston and Brumfield each had two hits and two RBIs. Hunter Bordelon and Rushing got the lone hits for Holden.
Rushing gave up 10 hits and struck out two in three-plus innings to get the loss. Layne Skyes gave up three hits and walked two in an inning, and Hartland Litolff retired the Hornets in order in the fifth.
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