The old trite saying goes, it’s better to be lucky than good.
East Carter was lucky Ethan Tiller was good on Monday night.
The sophomore infielder was a late addition to the Raiders’ starting nine when penciled-in starter Ethan Napier had a fingernail knocked off his throwing hand by a ball in pregame infield practice.
Tiller took over as East Carter’s ninth-place hitter and homered twice for the first time in his career to spark the Raiders over West Carter, 9-3, at J.P. Kouns Field.
“The baseball gods must have looked down and said, ‘Listen, moron, put the guy in the lineup,’” East Carter coach Jeremiah Shearer said.
Shearer listened, and Tiller made him look, well, smarter than a moron.
“I knew I had to step up somehow,” Tiller said. “Hopefully (Napier) gets better, but I just knew I had to come out and perform.”
Tiller’s three-run home run off the roof of the Forever 31 Field House in left field broke a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the second inning. He reprised the feat in solo fashion to center in the fourth.
“He has all the tools in the world,” Shearer said of Tiller. “He’s very capable, hits the ball really good in (batting practice), it’s just putting it all together, and today he was seeing the ball well and put it together.”
Tiller was one of four batters with at least one extra-base hit for the Raiders, who scored in every inning. Trevor Cline was 3 for 4, tripled and drove in two runs, and Trey Scott went 2 for 4 with a double.
“Good things happen when you put the ball in play,” Tiller said, “so I think we did that well tonight.”
All that was more than enough offense for East Carter pitcher Caden McDavid, who registered 14 strikeouts on 110 pitches over 6 2-3 innings. He issued one walk and allowed seven hits — three of them back-to-back-to-back Comets doubles that finally chased him one out shy of a complete game in the seventh.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had a start like that, a guy going deep in games,” Shearer said. “We’ve gotta have that moving forward.”
Shearer added that McDavid’s preservation of East Carter’s bullpen was vital, considering Monday’s game was the first of five the Raiders have scheduled this week.
“He was just in cruise control the whole time,” Tiller said. “He made it easy on us today.”
East Carter led 9-1 after Cline’s RBI groundout in the bottom of the sixth before West Carter picked up two runs in the final frame.
Trace Tackett went the distance on the mound for the Comets, accumulating six strikeouts and allowing 10 hits. He issued two walks and threw 100 pitches.
Aside from Ben Wilburn going 4 for 4 with a double, West Carter couldn’t do much against McDavid when it counted.
“They just seemed timid at the plate,” coach Matt Clark said of the Comets’ hitters. “I don’t know if it was because it’s the first district game or what it was, but it wasn’t the same hitters we’ve been seeing the last few weeks.
“We take a lot of fastballs and get in pitcher’s counts, and then it’s harder to hit off-speed when the pitcher’s constantly up in the count. I sure hope that we change that approach for tomorrow.”
The Raiders (6-8, 2-0 62nd District seeding) and Comets (9-8, 0-1 district seeding) indeed reconvene today in Olive Hill.
“Winning that first one kinda puts you in the driver’s seat there going into Game 2,” Shearer said, “having some momentum moving forward.”
West Carter and East Carter have split their last 12 games 6-6 since the Comets beat the Raiders on April 18, 2014 to end a 40-game series losing streak spanning 19 years.