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Waiting game pays off for Leopards' Watson

All game, Adam Watson watched from the bench and waited. And when his opportunity finally came - two strikes, two outs, two on, 2-all tie - he seized it in a way that only a senior could.

After sitting on the bench for the first six innings of Hernando's season opener against River Ridge, the senior catcher hit a two-run, pinch-hit single in the bottom of the sixth and the Leopards topped the Knights 4-2 in the first round of the Tom Varn Invitational on Monday.

"He's been sitting on the bench all night, catching pitchers, a junior starts in front of him, and he didn't mope," Hernando coach Tim Sims said. "I was very confident he would put it into play. He's the heart and soul of our team."

Watson, who started at catcher last season, has been battling junior James Everson throughout the preseason, and in the Leopards' season opener, the underclassman got the start.

If there is an ideal time to sit on the bench, Monday night wasn't it. The temperature was in the 30s and falling, and by the time Watson strode to the plate in the sixth, frost had begun to form on the infield.

"I was a little tight," Watson said.

After falling behind 0-2, Watson knocked a single through the middle of the field, scoring Andrew McNeal and Ryan Lamb for the eventual winning runs.

The hit capped a small comeback by Hernando, which fell behind 2-1 in the top of the sixth on a two-run home run by Terry Newton.

The Leopards held a 1-0 lead most of the game as senior Monte Ketchum hit a double in the first inning and eventually scored on an error.

"I was relieved," Watson said of his hit.

Up until the sixth inning, the game largely had been a pitching duel. River Ridge starter Curtis Reeves was electric most of the night, striking out nine and walking four.

Hernando starter Kai Huff was a little less overpowering, but just as effective, allowing one hit and striking out five through the first five innings.

"I felt good," Huff said.

River Ridge lifted Reeves after the fourth inning, while Huff stayed in through the sixth. Hernando senior Brandon Vanderford pitched the seventh to earn the save.