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Howard baseball rocks Century in battle of state champions

Howard junior Will Simmons had no doubt he would hit a home run in his fourth at-bat against visiting Century Tuesday afternoon. It was all he needed to hit for the cycle on a day where he barreled everything.

“I was feeling it,” Simmons said. “I had to. Everyone was telling me to get the homer.”

Unfortunately for the first baseman, he never got a chance to bat a fourth time because the Lions simply scored too many runs too quickly. The defending 4A state champions plated four in the first inning, five in the second and three in the fourth to beat the reigning 2A state champions, 12-2, in five innings and win their ninth consecutive game and improve to 11-1 overall.

Simmons had to settle for five RBIs, three runs scored and a double, single and triple in his three at-bats, while centerfielder Jerras Murray went 2-for-3 with four RBIs to lead an offense that is averaging 9.3 runs per game, best in Howard County.

“All three of those balls Will hit were absolutely just crushed,” Howard coach Nick Hoffner said. “Will’s having a real nice year for us and that obviously showed today. He had a great day at the plate, and Jerras behind him in the six-hole had four RBIs. ... Those two guys led the offense today.”

Ryan Kulick didn’t have his best stuff on the mound but held Century in check anyway. Howard’s No. 2 starter allowed seven hits and two runs — one earned — while striking out five and walking one in four innings pitched, and at the plate he finished 3-for-3 with two RBIs and three runs scored.

Ben Fader shut the door and struck out the final two batters after allowing back-to-back one-out singles in the fifth.

“That’s a good ball club over there,” Hoffner said. “I think we came in and did a really nice job and obviously I’m real happy with it.”

The Knights jumped out in front early with a run in the first inning but could’ve had more. An error with the bases loaded scored Jake Diehl but Jeremy Poe struck out with the bases loaded.

They added another run in the second frame on an RBI double by Hunter Rose (2-for-2) that scored pitcher Bradley Comer from first, but Rose was left stranded at second, which became a theme the rest of the way. Century had runners in scoring position with one or fewer outs in the third, fourth and fifth innings but none scored.

Jared Lamb also had a solid day in the box going 2-for-3 with a triple.

“Their pitcher kept us off balance,” Knights coach Chris Poe said. “We’ve played a lot of games so far ... so our boys are a little worn out and we’ve got three days off now, so we’re going to work hard.”

It was another dominating performance overall for Howard, which owns a plus-91 run differential in 12 games and has scored more runs (112) than any team in Howard County and allowed the fewest (21). During their nine-game winning streak, they have scored 10 or more runs six times and have allowed two or fewer in seven games, including two shutouts.

Poe, who’s in his first year as head coach after spending six seasons as an assistant or JV coach, said, “hitting-wise, that’s the best I’ve seen in a while.”

Simmons, however, believes there is better baseball to come.

“We’re getting to our potential but we’re not quite there,” he said. “We’re still getting there. Every game we should hit like we did in this game because some games we don’t hit as well but our defense is always pretty solid.”

Howard (11-1) — 12, Century (8-4) — 2 (5 innings)

......... 123 456 7 R-H-E

C ..... 110 00x x 2-9-1

Ho ... 450 3xx x 12-14-1

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