Prep Baseball Playoffs: Eagles punch ticket to state semifinals
The last time East Davidson participated in the fourth round of the 2-A state baseball playoffs, a controversial lightning delay ended their season.
But with clear skies on a perfect Friday evening at the Golden Eagle ballpark, the only lightning to be found came from the arm of right-handed pitcher Ryan McIntire. Dominant throughout, the junior delivered a gem in front of the home crowd, striking out 11 in a 4-0 shutout of West Stanly. Nathan Campbell added a two-run homer as the 19-6 Eagles advance to the state semifinals for the first time since 1999. That year the school went on to win the state championship.
At times this season, McIntire's had a tendency to leave his curveball up in the zone. He had it breaking hard Friday, and mixed with a fastball that had plenty of pop, there was not much the Colts could do.
“I was just trying to live low,” said McIntire. “The first couple of innings I struggled up, but coach pulled me to the side and told me to get right with myself. I went out to the pen and threw a couple of curveballs to practice staying low.”
McIntire (7-3) did find trouble in the first inning, as the Colts had runners at the corners with two outs. He buckled down to strike out Cody Cline swinging, then got immediate help from his offense.
Nick Williams reached on an error, bringing Campbell to the plate with one out. On a full-count offering from West's Hunter Martin, the catcher drilled a line drive to the power alley in left-center. It kept on carrying and found its way over the fence for a two-run shot and early 2-0 lead.
“When they get the guy on and they get into scoring position and we get out of the inning without them scoring, that deflates them a tad,” said EDHS skipper Dan Tricarico. “Then we come in and are able to do something. That just gave us momentum.”
McIntire struck out two in a quick top half of the second inning. In the bottom half, a pair of hits tacked on two more runs on the East side of the scoreboard.
Just when it appeared Cody Beck would be left stranded at second with two outs, Tyler Rhodes smacked a single to right to plate him. Kelvin Pena followed with a sinking line drive to left that West's Cooper Burgess lunged forward for. He got there a second late, as the ball dove under his glove and rolled to the fence. Rhodes easily scored and Pena raced around the bags to third. A grounder by Williams ended the inning and scoring for the night.
The Colts had a promising start to the third inning when Martin led off with a double. He never moved up a base. West had two flyouts to the outfield and McIntire picked up a strikeout.
Martin had a fine night for himself on the mound as well, but his performance took a backseat to the effort McIntire gave. As the game wore on McIntire continued to get stronger. He struck out six in the final three innings.
“Coach told me to use my legs and get way out there,” said McIntire. “I just did that the best that I could.”
East will meet Bunker Hill in a best-of-three semifinal series that is set to begin Tuesday at Bunker Hill. Game 2 is scheduled for Thursday at East. If necessary, Game 3 would go back to Bunker Hill on Saturday.
“They have worked very hard this season,” said Tricarico. “They have to put up with me all the time and I am so demanding and I expect them to do things the right way all the time. It is great for them. At this point they are accomplishing something they will be able to remember the rest of their lives.”
Notes: Campbell finished 2-for-3 as did West's Damon Smith … The Colts end the year with a 21-7 record … Game time Tuesday is 7 p.m. while Thursday's first pitch will take place at 7:30.
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.