Donnie Huddleston’s first career home run portended Campbell County High School’s first varsity baseball victory this season.
The strapping sophomore drilled a two-run shot during the second inning of last Tuesday’s (April 7) game at Hardin Valley to spark a 10-2 triumph, which brought an end to the Cougars’ 16-game losing streak.
It was also Campbell County’s first district win in three years and the first victory for coach Brad Collette since coming to Campbell County last summer from neighboring Maynardville.
Ironically, the Cougars snapped a 25-game skid last season with a one-run decision over Collette’s last Union County team.
“(The players) are starting to buy into what (the coaching staff) is doing,” said Collette.
“With four or five coaches the last few years, I think they’ve had a hard time buying into anybody. We’re getting better slowly, so we’ll see. I can still see us winning eight to 10 games.”
Though they’ve often shown signs of turning the corner, it took the Cougars over half a season to get their first win this year.
And the game against Hardin Valley was tougher than the final score might indicate. Campbell County’s pitching staff walked 11 batters.
The Cougars took a 6-2 lead into the sixth inning, where they scored four runs to give themselves a little breathing room. Huddleston started the game and went 3 1/2 innings before turning the mound over to lefty Andrew Dykes, who pitched the final 3 2/3 innings to earn the save. Dykes struck out four batters along the way.
“We can play a whole lot better,” said Collette.
“Donnie usually doesn’t walk that many. It was so cold that I think our pitchers just had a hard time gripping the baseball.”
Campbell County made up for shaky pitching with improved hitting.
Huddleston’s homer was the most dramatic hit of the afternoon, but several Cougars turned in solid performances at the plate.
Justin Willoughby had a double and 2 RBI. Joe Goins went 2-for-2 with a double and a single. Lance Webber and Chris Hutson each went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles. Webber had 2 RBI. Trammel Marlow also had a base hit.
The thrill of victory was short-lived, however.
On the following afternoon, Campbell County suffered the first of two consecutive district losses, 14-4, to Knoxville Central.
Webber and Blake Potter each went 1-for-2 with a pair of RBI. Goins and Brandon Kindred also went 1-for-2.
During a 16-4 defeat on Thursday, Webber cranked out a two-run homer and a double and also drove in three of his team’s four runs.
Hutson, Marlow, and Willoughby each went 2-for-3. Marlow’s batting stats included a double.
“This will be a big week for us,” said Collette.
“We’ll have some games where we’re comparable to the teams we’ll be playing.
“We’re going to make some changes (in the line-up) that I hope will help us out a little bit.”
Jayvee on win streak
While the varsity has seen its share of struggles this season, Campbell County’s junior varsity team has put together a three-game winning streak against District 3-AAA heavyweights Powell, Knox Halls and Knoxville Central.
“The young kids are about .500 right now,” said Collette.
Campbell County’s jayvee group includes many of the same players that are on the varsity team’s roster.