By Jason Avery
PARKERS CHAPEL - In the early stages of the season, teams are trying to figure out who will slot where on their pitching staffs.
On Tuesday, Junction City may have a found a piece to their puzzle, as Brock McGoogan allowed just one hit over five scoreless innings in relief to lead the Dragons past Parkers Chapel 7-3 at Robert McKinnon Park.
A senior, McGoogan walked three, hit a batter and struck out four.
“He’s pitched the last week for us and did a pretty good job, but he was even sharper tonight throwing strikes,” said Junction City coach Joe Paul Hammett. “It was a good thing for us. We planned on using three guys, but he was beating the strike zone up, so we stayed with him. It’s definitely going to help us if he can continue to do that.”
McGoogan entered the game at the outset of the third with Junction City (3-1) trailing 3-0, and the right-hander permitted only one baserunner to reach scoring position.
“I thought Brock did a heck of a job pitching,” said Parkers Chapel coach Mark Looney. “He kept the ball down low. He threw strikes and mixed it up. He pretty much shut us down, so you’ve got to tip your cap when you’re supposed to, and Brock McGoogan did a heck of a job for them today.”
Parkers Chapel (2-2) starter Carson Worthey also turned in a solid performance.
With the Trojans slated to play in the Crossett Tournament, Worthey was kept on a pitch count of 50.
The senior fired three scoreless innings, allowing two hits. He walked two, hit two batters and struck out three.
“We want to have everybody available for the tournament because it’s possible we may be playing four games in three days,” Looney said. “He did a great job. He kept them off-balance. I couldn’t have asked more out of him.”
The Trojans led 3-0 going into the fourth inning, but two defensive miscues coupled with three walks and two hit batters led to the Dragons scoring five runs with the aid of just one hit.
Blake Wells took over for Worthey at the outset of the fourth, but the left-hander found himself in a jam due to a pair of errors.
With one out, Tanner McLelland and Cody Lee reached on consecutive errors on grounders to third to put runners at second and third, but Wells rallied back to strike out Ty Disotell.
Wells stood one out away from pitching out of trouble, but a walk to Bryce Ware loaded the bases, and Clay Jolley got the Dragons on the scoreboard by ripping a two-run double to the gap in left-center.
Back-to-back walks to Keelan Hodge and McGoogan forced in a run to tie the game, prompting a pitching change.
“He should’ve had a 1-2-3 inning, but shoulda, woulda, coulda,” Looney said. “Ten pitches ended up being 30 after a couple of back-to-back errors, and then the floodgates opened up.”
T.J. Bale was summoned to try to halt the Dragons’ momentum, but the right-hander hit Jack Smith and Charles Hoof with pitches to bring home a pair of runs.
Junction City added a pair of insurance runs in the seventh.
The Dragons loaded the bases after Lee was hit by a pitch, Gabe Richard reached on an infield single and Ware singled to left.
Jolley then collected a bases-loaded walk and Hodge drove in a run with a ground out to second to cap the scoring.
Once the Dragons took the lead in the fourth, McGoogan closed the door on the Trojans the rest of the way, pitching around a one-out walk to Colton Laster in the sixth and hitting Tyler Martin with a pitch in the seventh to end it.
“We played pretty good defense behind him,” Hammett said. “Cody (Lee) made a great catch early in the ballgame, and we made the routine plays. It’s definitely a big win anytime you can beat Parkers Chapel. I know it’s early for both of us, and we’re both going to get better, but it’s a big win for us going forward. We hope to get better every game.”
The Trojans got out of the gates quickly, scoring three runs in the opening frame against Ware, who got the start for the Dragons.
Bale drew a leadoff walk, and Michael Brotherton reached on a throwing error after laying down a bunt to third.
Bale went to third on the miscue, putting runners at the corners with nobody out.
Worthey then helped himself by hitting a sacrifice fly to center that brought home Bale with the game’s first run.
With Trace Shoup batting, Brotherton went to second on a wild pitch.
The freshman then laced a Ware offering down the left-field line for a ground-rule double to score Brotherton to give the Trojans a 2-0 lead.
Shoup later took third on a passed ball and scored when the throw to nab him sailed down the left-field line.
Staked to an early lead, Worthey made it stand it up by pitching out of a pair of two-out jams.
In the second, the Dragons and had runners at second and third with two outs after McLelland walked and Lee doubled, but the right-hander fanned Kristian Hodge to end the inning.
Junction City again had runners at second and third with two outs in the third, but Worthey retired Smith on a ground out to third.
But after stranding four runners in scoring position, Jolley came up with a key hit to get the Dragons going.
“We struggled a little early at the plate,” Hammett said. “We got some people on, but we never could get the big hit. That one hit we did get really broke the ice for us and got us going.”
Ware finished 2-for-3, as did Jolley, who added three RBIs.
Lee and Richard each had one hit for the Dragons, who stranded 14 runners.
Shoup and Reid Cates had the Trojans’ lone hits in the game.
“We just didn’t bounce back and fight through adversity right there,” Looney said. “As a young team, we’ve got to find a way to do that. Before the season is over with, when this young team faces adversity, I hope they’ll fight through it and bounce back, because that’s what good teams do.”