By Liz Keller / Scrimmageplay.com contributor
Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you don’t have your best stuff.
That was the case on Wednesday night for Orange County’s Bradley Hanner in the Conference 16 Tournament semifinals against Atlee.
The Hornets, fueled by a five-run second inning, dispatched the visiting Raiders 8-1 to secure a spot in the Region 5A North playoffs.
Hanner, a senior who allowed a run and scattered three hits in five innings, struggled with his breaking ball and threw 97 pitches on the night.
“I didn’t have my best stuff tonight, but the team played well behind us and we took advantage of their mistakes,” said Hanner, who finished with seven strikeouts.
After the Raiders (13-7) had taken the early lead, Orange answered to take the momentum.
“[Atlee] was very energetic in the dugout, but you put five runs up, especially in a playoff game when we’ve got our No. 1 out there and that’s a big turning point,” Orange coach David Rabe said.
Orange tacked on one run in the third and another in the fourth, as Cannon Davies led off with a double to left field. The sophomore later scored as Hanner reached on an infield error. The Hornets (17-3) put the game out of reach in the sixth, adding one more to finish the scoring.
“With Hanner on the mound, you can’t come back from deficits like that,” Atlee coach John Corbin said. “We had people on the majority of the innings, but tonight we couldn’t come up with that timely hit we needed to put up crooked numbers to get ourselves back into the game.”
Hanner helped himself out at the plate with a triple and three RBI, while Justin Beaty had a pair of RBI. Tre Smith, Keenan Williams, Will Dawson, Christian Amos and Allen Seeley each had base hits in the win.
Caleb Ferraro shut down the visitors in the sixth, while Jacob Barragan retired three straight batters to seal the win.
“I just can’t stop smiling,” Rabe said. “This [win] is huge — every year we’ve gotten a little bit better. We’re very strict on them, we have huge expectations and they keep stepping up. The proof is in the wins. We went from 10 wins last year and we’re 17-3 right now and getting ready to play in the conference championship.”
Orange will travel to Halifax for the Conference 16 championship tonight at 7 p.m. Atlee faces Patrick Henry (Ashland) on Friday.