In its first game since returning home from spring break in Florida, Tates Creek looked rested and revved up for 43rd District baseball rival Lafayette Wednesday night.
Led by the strong pitching of Tanner Hart and timely hitting, the Commodores crushed Lafayette 8-0 in a battle of top five teams.
Hart, who was 4-0 with a 1.60 earned run average last year, improved to 4-0 this season with a complete-game four-hitter. The senior righthander struck out eight and walked two.
"It's easy to throw strikes and let 'em roll it when you have a great defense and a great offense," Hart said. "There's not too much to worry about.
"I stuck to my game plan. I tried to keep them off balance by mixing up my changeup and slider, and throwing strikes."
Lafayette Coach Chris Langston credited Hart for shutting down what had been a pretty good offense.
"He's a very talented guy and he had it tonight," Langston said. "We couldn't break his tempo. You could tell he was very comfortable out there."
Hart was overpowering the first six innings as he faced two batters over the minimum.
Kylan Nelson had an infield hit in the third, but catcher Max Sweet threw him out trying to steal.
Hart gave up a walk in the fourth and a single to Johnny Fangmeyer in the sixth.
No. 4 Lafayette loaded the bases in the seventh on two singles and a walk, but Hart got a strikeout to end the threat. By then, Tates Creek's bats staked him to a big lead.
The No. 3 Commodores scored twice in the second, once in the third and five times in the fourth.
Luke Rouse had two hits, two runs and an RBI. Blake Rose had two hits, including a run-scoring double. Devin Hairston, who's been killing the ball lately, ripped an RBI double. Max Sweet drove in a run and had a double. Jaren Shelby stroked a two-run single to cap the fourth inning when the Commodores got all five runs with two outs.
Rouse, a senior centerfielder, said it was no coincidence that Tates Creek was clicking with Hart on the mound.
"When our pitcher's in a rhythm and pounding the strike zone, our defense is in the game, our offense is in the game and everything comes together," Rouse said.
Commodores Coach Dom Fucci likes what he's seen from his pitchers and defense so far this spring, and he expects the offense to improve.
"We're still a little behind on our swings," he said. "But we had a good trip to Florida We faced some guys who were bringing it pretty hard.
"Pitching is usually a little ahead of hitting this time of year, but it'll come along."
Langston has been happy with the way his team has hit the ball this season, so he was disappointed with their quiet bats Wednesday night.
He was also disappointed that two of his front-line pitchers, Jalen Stith and Jack Noftsger, didn't get much done against Tates Creek.
"We're still trying to figure out who wants the ball in big situations," he said.
TATES CREEK 8, LAFAYETTE 0
Lafayette 000 000 0—0 4 1
Tates Creek 021 500 x—8 8 0
Jalen Stith, Jack Noftsger (4), Sam Shelley (6) and Johnny Fangmeyer. Tanner Hart and Max Sweet. 2B—Sweet (TC), Devin Hairston (TC).
Records: Tates Creek 7-2-1, Lafayette 6-4.
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.