By Jason Avery
PARKERS CHAPEL - If Carson Worthey's first start is any indication, Parkers Chapel's rotation could be in for a big year.
On Thursday, Worthey and T.J. Bale combined for 11 strikeouts in a one-hitter to lead Parkers Chapel past Smackover 7-2 in a battle of Union County rivals at Robert McKinnon Park.
A senior, Worthey also had a big day at the plate, going 4-for-4 with four RBIs, but it was on the mound where he really shined.
Worthey worked four hitless innings, walked three and struck out seven.
"It was great," said Parkers Chapel coach Mark Looney. "I knew he'd been throwing some good bullpens, and he came out today and threw strikes. He was really mixing it up and keeping them off-balance. T.J. came in and shut the door, which we expect him to do. Hitting-wise, we're still leaving too many men on base, but we pulled away at the end and did enough to win the ballgame."
The Trojans staked Worthey to a 3-0 lead by scoring one run in the first and two in the second against Bucks starter Tucker Evans.
Bale, who went 2-for-4 and scored three runs, doubled to start the bottom of the first and later scored on the first of Worthey's two doubles in the contest.
The Trojans took advantage of two errors in the second to extend their lead.
With one out, Thomas Hardy walked and took second on an errant pickoff throw.
Bale then reached after his grounder to third was misplaced for an error, putting runners at the corners.
With Michael Brotherton at the plate, Hardy tried to score on a wild pitch, but was thrown out after staying in a rundown long enough for Bale to advance to third.
Brotherton then walked to again put runners at the corners, and with Worthey batting, Bale scored on a wild pitch to make it 2-0.
With Brotherton now at second, Worthey continued to help his own cause, as his flare to shallow right fell for a run-scoring single to make it 3-0.
In the interim, Worthey was cruising.
The right-hander retired 10 of the 12 batters of the game, but the senior couldn't pitch around a pair of miscues in the fourth.
With one out, Cade Schibler walked and stole second, and Noah Wilson was plunked with a pitch to put runners at first and second.
With Alex Burris batting, a pair of throwing errors on a pickoff attempt allowed Schibler to score and Wilson to take third.
Burris then drove in Wilson with an RBI groundout to make it 3-2, but the Trojans answered with a run in the bottom of the fourth.
With one out, Hardy walked and took second on a wild pitch.
One out later, Brotherton drew a walk to put runners at first and second.
Evans then got Worthey to hit a grounder to the right side of the infield that should’ve ended the inning, but no one was covering first base after Burris, Smackover's second baseman, fielded it, allowing Worthey to reach on an infield single.
Not hesitating when he reached third, Hardy was just able to beat the throw to the plate to make it 4-2.
With a two-run cushion to work with, Bale took over for Worthey at the outset of the fifth.
After working a 1-2-3 fifth, Josh Saulsbury's pop fly to shallow left fell for the Bucks' lone hit of the game to start the sixth, but the right-hander avoided further trouble.
"We had only one hit, and it was a cheap hit," said Smackover coach B.J. Greene. "Their pitchers threw a good game. We didn't have a hit off of Worthey. He kept us off-balance. Then Bale came in and sped it up a little bit, and we were behind."
The Trojans then put the game away in the sixth.
Bale led off the inning by legging out a bunt single to third, and Brotherton reached on a two-base throwing error after laying down a bunt of his own.
With runners now at second and third, Worthey gave the Trojans some breathing room by capping his big day with a two-run double to center.
The senior scored moments later on a wild pitch to end the scoring.
Evans took the loss after allowing five hits and four runs in four innings of work. He walked six and struck out five.
Bale struck out four and didn't walk a batter in his three innings.
"We had four errors and our pitchers walked eight and hit one. We gave up only two earned runs," Greene said.
"Anytime you have a line like that, you're not going to be successful, but I told our guys, 'This isn't a state championship game, we're just trying to get better.' I told them we're probably going to have a different lineup tomorrow because we need to figure out who can play in what positions.
"We didn't get any production at all from seven, eight, nine. We didn't get any production from our leadoff or our three and four hitters, so we've got to get production out of those guys. The season is young, and we're going to keep battling."