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BOUNCING BACK: After a Rough First Inning, Jaxon Huffman and Redbank Valley Rally for 6-2 Win Over Moniteau

BUTLER, Pa. (EYT/D9) — It was a rough first inning for Jaxon Huffman.

The Redbank Valley right-hander hit the first batter he faced, then later in the frame gave up a bloop single to right to Landon Kelly for a 2-0 Moniteau lead.

(Pictured above, Jaxon Huffman)

But Huffman, just a sophomore, regrouped and threw five no-hit innings after that adventurous first and helped himself at the plate with three hits as the Bulldogs rallied past the Warriors for a 6-2 win on Tuesday afternoon at Michelle Krill Field at Historic Pullman Park.

“You know, with this group of kids, we don’t have a whole lot of emotions, but when there’s a little bit of anger behind them, all of a sudden they change,” said Redbank Valley coach Craig Hibell. “I don’t know if we had it in the first inning, but after that, the next thing you know, Jaxon is throwing a little harder. Throwing more strikes, pitching with an attitude, and we liked that.”

Huffman struck out seven, walked two and gave up just those two runs and two hits in the first inning to get the win.

“The first inning, you’re always a little timid,” Huffman said. “You’re fresh and you don’t know these kids you are facing and you don’t know how the umpire is going to call things. After that, you just have to let it fly, really. It was early, and we had a lot of game to play. I trusted my team behind me. I have no doubt they can make plays. The bench had great energy.”

Huffman was dominant after that rocky first.

He threw 100 pitches — 68 for strikes — and allowed just two base runners (both on walks) from the second inning on.

In the fourth, he struck out the side.

The plan wasn’t for Huffman to pitch that deep in the game, but after quick fourth and fifth innings, he went out to the mound for the sixth.

“When he had that smooth fifth inning, we said let him go out there for the sixth,” Hibell said. “He hit that 100 limit and we knew we were going to Ty (Carrier) no matter what after that.”

Carrier pitched a hitless seventh.

With rainouts backlogging the schedule, Huffman was happy to go deep in the game.

Redbank won on Monday behind the tandem of Braylon Wagner and Owen Clouse, who combined for a two-hit shutout in a 10-0 win over Keystone. Each pitched three innings.

The Bulldogs may have a distinct advantage over many teams in District 9 because of their deep pitching staff, which can overcome a packed schedule of games.

“That helps tremendously,” Huffman said. “We can pitch three guys a game so we can all be fresh for the next game.”

While Huffman was throwing up zeros, so was Moniteau starter Dawson Cook, who was dominant himself in the first two innings.

But Redbank Valley (4-1) got to him for three runs in the top of the third with two outs.

Cook walked Wagner around a pair of strikeouts, then Owen Clouse followed with a single. The Bulldogs tied the game at 2-2 on an error and then moved ahead for good on a RBI single by Huffman, who was 3 for 4 in the game.

“I don’t believe any of the players on the team hit for ourselves,” Huffman said. “Coach Hibell tells us team at-bats, team at-bats, team at-bats. You can’t win the game if you don’t bat for the team. You’re not going to win a game by yourself.”

With that 3-2 lead, Huffman said he could take a deep breath.

“A lead is great. It’s so much easier on a pitcher,” Huffman said. “You just feel calm and collected and relaxed when you’re ahead in the game.”

Cook got the loss, striking out nine in five innings of work. He gave up three runs (two earned) on four hits and walked three. He threw 97 pitches.

Redbank tacked on another run in the top of the sixth and two more insurance runs in the seventh.

Carrier also had two hits for the Bulldogs.

For Moniteau, it was another tough loss on its home field, dropping the Warriors to 2-4 this season.

Moniteau started slowly last year, too, but made a postseason push.

Hibell said he expects the Warriors to be right there again at the end.

“We have a lot of respect for that entire program,” Hibell said. “Moniteau, along with us and Clarion and Karns City, is the class of the KSAC.”