SCOTT – Denham Springs starting pitcher Hayden Sills wasn’t exactly certain he warmed up during the game.
An early-morning 10 o’clock start provided Sills with an opportunity to display his mental toughness in chilly temperatures and against a formidable Acadiana High lineup.
Sills past both with flying colors.
Sills pitched a 3-hit shutout and his teammates backed him up with a run in the first inning, continually stretching that lead over the course of the game for a 6-0 victory Saturday morning at Acadiana’s Scott McCullough Field as part of the Atchafalaya Challenge.
“It’s rough,” Sills said of starting assignment in such conditions. “It takes a little bit of mental toughness to get out and warm up in 50-degree weather. To get out and throw for as long as I did was rough. Especially with the way the wind was blowing.”
Denham Springs (8-6) concluded the round-robin event with a 2-2 record, falling to Lafayette High 10-2 Saturday afternoon. The Yellow Jackets split two other games, defeating Lafayette Christian Academy, 4-1, and dropping an 8-5 decision at St. Thomas More.
Denham Springs coach Mark Carroll felt his team took a step forward offensively against Acadiana after failing to deliver timely hits in Friday’s setback against St. Thomas More.
“That was the two-out hit we were searching for all day Friday,” he said. “We had several innings with two-out hits which we weren’t doing Friday and left eight guys in scoring position. That was a definite improvement. Hayden threw a good game and kept us out chances for big innings for them. Pretty good job. I’ll take it.”
Tyler Evans provided Sills with a 1-0 lead in the first with a sacrifice fly that scored Cade Doughty, who drew a one-out walk and reached third on Noah Juan’s single.
The Yellow Jackets, who totaled seven hits, added four straight unearned runs, scoring in third, fourth and sixth innings to make it 5-0.
Right fielder Josh Preston, an LSU Eunice commitment, had a two-out triple in the fourth that scored courtesy runner Hayden Horne, who was running for Sills after he reached on a lead-off error.
Acadiana appeared it was going to get out of the sixth when Preston was able to reach on the Rams’ third error of the game, allowing Garrett Sylvest to score, followed by Doughty’s RBI-single to drive in Preston.
Catcher Tristan Duhe, like Preston was 2-for-4, accounted for his team’s final run with an RBI-single to left field to score Evans, who led off the sixth with a walk.
Sills (1-1) did the rest.
After cruising through the first three scoreless innings in 25 pitches, Sills ran into his first sign of trouble in the fourth when two batters reached safely on a walk and hit batter in the fourth.
Sills answered with a strikeout and a fly out to Tanner Zeppuhar in left field.
“It’s a time where you’ve got to bow up, be extra tough on the mound and trust your defense,” Sills said. “Trust them to make the plays behind you and they did. It worked out.”
Acadiana placed two runners on in each of the fifth and sixth innings, only to be turned away by Sills each time who stranded eight runners during that span.
The Rams had their first runner reach third base on the sixth when a walk and a pair of fielder’s choices loaded the bases with two outs but Sills got a groundout to Juan at third base.
“Our kids did a good job of extending our lead which takes pressure off Hayden on the mound, that allows him to relax,” Carroll said. “We made a couple of good plays behind him defensively with two outs and kept them from getting any momentum.”
Sills, who walked four and struck out four, allowed a one-out single in the seventh, but second baseman Reese Smith started a double play that Doughty turned to finish the game.
“I’m very happy, I worked the zone very well and hit my spots for the most part and let my defense work,” said Sills, who threw 44 of 80 pitches for strikes. “The big thing is to bear down. That’s a very good hitting team and I didn’t want to give them any breathing room. The mental toughness has to be good right there.”
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