Explaining adjustments taken to play in spacious Smokies Stadium, Dylan Harris started off saying, “You had to work on hard ground balls. You had to understand you weren’t going to hit the ball out a lot,” but then caught himself, glanced towards his teammate standing three feet away and broke out into a big grin before finishing his thoughts with, “unless you’re Ryder Green.”
Harris had been no slouch in the Hardin Valley Academy
15-5 rout over Sevier County in the culminating game of a Good Friday round-robin mini-tournament. The senior picked up a win in a rare pitching outing with two scoreless innings and collected three of 11 Hardin Valley hits, but it was the two home-run blasts from Green that led all conversations after the Prep Xtra Holiday Classic held at the home of the Tennessee Smokies.
After Harris struck out the side to open the day’s final game, the Hawks (7-1) sent 13 to the plate in the bottom of the first. Harris led off with a single and scored on one of two Smoky Bear errors when Green’s first at-bat produced a dropped fly ball.
Hits from Matt Martin, Cam Fisher and Ian Cox drove in four more before Harris, in his second at-bat of the inning, brought in two with a liner to deep right. Joined on the paths when Landen Beyer walked, both were plated when Green lined a fast ball about 360 feet into the left-field bleachers to give Harris a 10-run cushion for his second round on the mound.
Green, a Kentucky commitment although just a sophomore, cranked a solo shot to left-center for his second dinger, giving the Hawks a 13-5 lead heading into the sixth.
Highlighting his versatility, Green finished his day with two near-perfect pitching rounds, striking out four and allowing just one walk over the fifth and sixth frames.
When asked how the park’s larger dimensions affected his hitting style, Green said, “It’s just a mental thing, steady down through the ball. I tried to do that and just happened to lift a couple today, used my back side. It’s really all about back-side line drives, hard on the ground. Anyone can field a lazy pop-up, so it’s all about making them make plays.”
Playing outfield after his pitching stint, Harris ended the rout in the sixth when his two-out bases-loaded fly ball was lost in the evening twilight sky, dropping untouched and unseen in shallow center field to push in two final runs reaching the 10-run mercy rule.
Drew Parks threw the middle two innings, when Sevier County bats briefly came alive to bang out eight of their 10 hits for five runs. Parks added three to the HVA total of 12 strikeouts — while the Hawks themselves were not fanned once, and added five base-runners through walks.
Beyer kept the larger foul territory from becoming a factor with steady play behind the plate, and helped Harris out of a jam by picking off a runner at third after the Smoky Bears (6-4) had loaded the bases with just one out in the second.
“I’ve played here before so I know how big it is,” Beyer said. “You can’t let anything get by you, with all that extra room. You’ve got to be ready for anything, and go after any ball you think might be in play.”
In earlier action, the Hawks defeated Dobyns-Bennett 10-2 behind six strong innings from Kevin Marth and 10 hits overall including two each from Harris, Green and Trevor Lloyd. Dobyns-Bennett defeated Sevier County 8-5 in the day’s opening game.