High School Sports

Vancleave's pitcher entered 'a zone' Friday night and the Bulldogs reached new heights

Vancleave celebrates after scoring three runs during the first inning against East Central in Game 2 of the Class 4A South State series on Friday at East Central.
Vancleave celebrates after scoring three runs during the first inning against East Central in Game 2 of the Class 4A South State series on Friday at East Central. amccoy@sunherald.com

The 2018 Vancleave baseball team has gone farther than any squad in program history, and it's doing so in a dominant fashion this postseason

Vancleave's Hayden Robb tossed a two-hitter to lead the Bulldogs to their first Class 4A South State title and a bid to the state title round with a 4-0 win over long-time rival East Central Friday.

After the two teams split the regular season series, Vancleave finished off the sweep Friday after winning 3-1 in Game 1.

The contest went about as well as Robb could have expected.

"I felt in a zone out there," Robb said.

First-year head coach Daniel Best, a former All-American pitcher at Southern Miss, is off to rousing start at Vancleave.

"It's amazing," Best said. "Any time one of our teams can make it to the state championships, it's big for the school and community.

"We have a lot of seniors on this team. They have been playing for this their entire career. It's special for them."

Vancleave (27-7) jumped out early in the first inning to take a 3-0 lead off two East Central infield errors and a Bailee Hendon RBI double.

"It was a rough first inning," said East Central coach Bo Long. "Robb did a great job. We never could get anything going off him."

Robb took a no-hitter into the fifth before Heath Ballard singled to left to put runners on first and second with one out. An out later, Robb walked East Central leadoff batter Cameron Gray to load the bases before getting out of the inning with a grounder to short.

The fifth was the only inning where East Central (24-6) had multiple baserunners and put a runner in scoring position.

"I felt confident we would get out of the inning," Robb said. "I knew I had nine guys behind me ready to make a play on the ball."

Robb said the three early runs helped him settle down.

"It doesn't eliminate the pressure, but the pressure is lessened," he said. "You can get away with a lot more mistakes."

After his double, Hendon walked three times, twice intentionally, and stole a base. Colton Hipp also doubled and Evan Keith singled in a run in the third.

Robb scattered four walks against five strikeouts. He also had a single and sacrifice bunt.

Avery White singled in the seventh and Louis Morgan walked twice for East Central.

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