For once, there was little debate as to who Conway head baseball coach Anthony Carroll would give the game ball.
Oddly enough, the ball was in good hands the whole time.
Making only the second start of his varsity career, Dustin Herring went the distance Tuesday night, hurling a shutout in Conway’s 2-0 win over South Florence.
The sophomore pitcher scattered only three hits in the game, while striking out three Bruin batters.
“I can’t lie, I had a few butterflies,” Herring said. “… But (Carroll) said to pitch strikes and let the defense work. And that’s kind of what I was able to do (Tuesday night).”
Scoring opportunities were scant on both sides, Herring and his pitching counterpart in South Florence’s Will Hardee doing their part to keep batters off balance.
Errors almost reared their head in the result, however, Conway committing three of them in the game – at times putting their pitcher in tough spots. But each time, Herring found a way out of trouble, coming up with a key strikeout or forcing a groundball out.
“We made a few errors, but (Herring) was able to pitch around them,” Carroll said. “Then, we were able to get a big hit when we needed it.”
Knotted at zero in the bottom of the fifth inning, Conway right fielder Zack Lee led off the inning with a double. He would advance to third the following batter courtesy of a bunt by center fielder Keith Autry Benton.
This would set the stage for Reid Hardwick, who had made solid contact in his first two at-bats but nothing to show for it.
The Conway center fielder and Hardee would go tit-for-tat in a nine-pitch at-bat, ending with Hardwick sending a fast ball from the South Florence pitcher deep to center field to bring in the game’s first run.
“I was just looking for a ball to put deep in the outfield,” Hardwick said. “I was sitting back fastball, but much of what he was giving me was offspeed. But he finally threw me a fastball up and in, and hit it.”
It was one of few mistakes made by Hardee in the contest, one in which he struck out five Conway batters while scattering five hits. He also walked one.
Hardwick legged out a triple as a result, being brought home by Trystan Causey two pitches later on a suicide squeeze.
With the victory, Conway picked up its first region win since the 2014 after going 0-10 in league play a season ago.
“I’m just proud of my team right now,” Carroll said. “Last year, we were 0-10 in the region. So we’ve already improved in that regard, but there is still a long way to go.”
▪ W: Dustin Herring (CON) L: .Will Hardee Top hitters: SFHS: Zyier Turner (2 for 3); CON: Reid Hardwick (1 for 3, RBI, R), Frankie Edwards (2 for 3).
▪ Records: CON: 3-0 (1-0).