By Jesse Skiles
NUTTER FORT -- Playing its first game since being selected the top ranked Class A baseball team in West Virginia, Notre Dame's Fighting Irish defeated Harrison County rival South Harrison, 7-3, Thursday at Frank Loria Memorial Field.
Starter Jon Thomas pitched four strong innings, allowing only one hit, two unearned runs, and struck out six. Coach Mark Starkey gave the rest of his starting rotation an inning of work to close the night, as Justin Starkey, Tyler Musgrave, and Josh Johnson all performed for one frame. In all, the Irish pitchers only allowed three hits, while striking out 13 Hawk batters.
"We simply wanted to get everybody some work in on the mound. We hadn't played in a week, and we have a doubleheader at Preston on Saturday, so these guys needed to throw some," Starkey said.
South Harrison jumped to an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Ryan McWhorter and Caleb Stutler scored on the same play as Notre Dame committed a two-out error. The Irish would rebound to take control of the game with a single run in the first, two in the second and four in the fourth inning.
McWhorter started for the Hawks and had an effective outing, but was victimized by errors behind him. South Harrison committed a total of six errors in the contest as only two of McWhorter's runs allowed were earned.
Offensively, Notre Dame collected seven hits, led by a 3-for-4 line from Starkey, who also banged a pair of doubles. Th Irish were also aggressive on the basepaths with nine steals, led by Trey Simmerman with three and Vic Shaffer with two.
"Coming off the layoff, we didn't really know what to expect, but I thought our bats were OK. We didn't hang our heads after getting down early and did what we had to do to get the win," Starkey said.
Notre Dame (8-1) carries their top ranking against the Class AAA Preston Knights on Saturday, and the victory over the scrappy South Harrison squad (2-1) may prove indicative of tough games that lie ahead for the Fighting Irish.
"That's the thing with being the top ranked team; it puts a big target on your chest, and everybody is coming after you. Part of the responsibility of being ranked, is you know not very many games are gonna be easy," Starkey said.