The top pitchers for Granbury’s baseball squad seemed to be where first-year head coach Brad Eppler expected them to be as the Pirates opened their 2014 season by winning one of their four games in the Classic Chevrolet Tournament at GHS.
Nathan Hickey tossed a 1-hitter for Granbury in a 4-1 win over Class 4A Abilene Cooper in the Pirates’ second game on opening day, Thursday. Earlier that day, in Granbury’s first outing of the season, Payton Rhodes did not allow an earned run in Granbury’s 3-2 loss to Sweetwater.
Hickey struck out nine and walked only two in his seven innings of work. He also went 7-for-12 with two RBIs at the plate in the tournament.
“He is an excellent baseball player in every way,” Eppler said of Hickey. “Every time he steps on the mound, he gives us a chance to win. I’d put him up against anybody in the state. He’s the real deal.
“He’s always around the plate. He’ll do it the rest of this year, and for four more years in college.”
Eppler said that the senior right-hander was already a quality performer as a junior, but also added some heat to his fastball in the year since then.
“His velocity increased,” he said. “That goes with time.”
Also for the Pirates offensively, Dylan Rowland was 4-for-7 at the plate in the first three games before being held hitless in Saturday’s 7-2 lost to a junior college squad from Ranger College.
“What stands out more than anything is, we’re not there yet,” Granbury varsity coach Brad Eppler said – before noting that he thinks the team will be where he wants it to be, eventually. The first four games, offensively, were fairly enemic. That’s what you’d expect (early in the season), but not what you want.”
Eppler also praised the pitching effort of junior Payton Rhodes, in Granbury’s first game of the tournament Thursday against Sweetwater. It was a 3-2 loss to the Mustangs, but Rhodes did not allow an earned run.
“Anytime we get five innings with no earned runs, we should be in games,” Eppler said. “We count on him to be our No. 2 pitcher. This (is) his third year to start for us. For him to go out and do what he did is exactly what we expected.”
However, Eppler was not thrilled with the loss to Class 3A Sweetwater.
“We should have walked out with a win, and (the players) are disappointed – the middle of the order not having produced as expected,” Eppler said.
In the 7-2 loss to Ranger College Saturday, the Pirates gave up four earned runs in the first two frames on six hits. The Rangers added three more runs in the fifth on three hits and an infield error.
Rhodes walked to lead off the game and scored Granbury’s first run on Tristan Fallin’s RBI single.
Granbury’s second run came in the fifth after Alex Kempf drew a walk and eventually scored with a bases-loaded single off the bat of Nathan Hickey, but a strikeout and a popup ended the threat.
The Pirates stranded a runner at third base in both the third and sixth innings.
Matthew Hickey gave up nine hits in his five innings on the mound Saturday, striking out one and walking three. Kasey Hubbard pitched the final two innings, without allowing a hit.
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Classic Chevrolet Tournament
Sweetwater 000 011 1 – 3 5 3
Granbury 000 101 0 – 2 6 4
Granbury (0-1) hitting – Nathan Hickey 2-4; Landon Weatherly 1-4; Landon Gray 1-3, RBI; Kasey Hubbard 1-3; Dylan Rowland 1-3.
Granbury pitching – Payton Rhodes 6 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs, no earned runs, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts; Landon Weatherly (0-1), 1 inning, no hits, no runs, no walks, 1 strikeout.
Abilene 010 000 0 – 1 1 2
Granbury 000 130 x – 4 4 3
Granbury (1-1) hitting – Nathan Hickey 1-3, RBI; Landon Gray 1-2; Dylan Rowland 1-3; Landon Weatherly 1-3, RBI; Payton Rhodes 2 walks, RBI; Alex Kempf sacrifice fly, RBI.
Granbury pitching – N. Hickey (1-0) 7 innings, 1 hit, 1 run, no earned runs; 2 walks, 9 strikeouts.
Timberview 122 031 0 – 9 15 2
Granbury 202 000 0 – 4 5 4
Granbury (1-2) hitting – Nathan Hickey 2-3; Tristen Fallin 1-3; Dylan Rowland 2-3; Payton Rhodes RBI.
Granbury pitching – Ian Chancellor (0-1) 3 2/3 innings, 10 hits, 5 runs, 4 earned runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts; Landon Weatherly 2-1/3 innings, 5 hits, 4 runs, 2 earned runs, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts.
Ranger JC 130 030 0 – 7 9 1
Granbury 100 010 0 – 2 5 2
Granbury (1-3) hitting – Nathan Hickey 2-4, RBI; Landon Gray 1-3, triple; Tristan Fallin 1-4, RBI; Landon Weatherly 1-3.
Granbury pitching – Matthew Hickey (0-1) 5 innings, 9 hits, 7 runs, 7 earned runs, 3 walks, 0 strikeouts; Casey Hubbard 2 innings, 0 hits, 0 runs, 1 hit batter, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts.