State Baseball Playoffs: Eagles advance with 6-3 victory
Momentum is everything in a game, especially when it is the first round of the 2-A state playoffs.
Parkwood thought they had seized it the very first inning Tuesday evening, until East Davidson's Nick Williams stepped in to pull the plug on the threat.
The Rebels put runners on second and third with nobody out, but the senior pitcher did his best Harry Houdini impersonation to escape the jam with no harm done. With the Golden Eagles avoiding the early disaster, they settled in over the middle innings and calmly secured a 6-3 decision that advances them to the second round.
“When they get second and third with no outs, it's like, oh boy,” said East coach Dan Tricarico.
The longtime head coach had plenty of reason to be concerned. Leadoff hitter J.T. Dunn had hammered a ball to the fence in left that Kelvin Pena could not come up with. Scott McFalls followed with a grounder to second, but Jake Geren bobbled it to put runners on the corner. McFalls stole second soon after, leaving the Eagles in deep trouble right off the bat.
The events did not phase the veteran hurler. Williams struck out the next two batters and got Logan Plattenburg to hit a lazy fly ball to left that Pena put away safely.
“I was just focused on getting the ball low,” said Williams. “I know I left one up that inning and the guy ripped a base hit. But the next few batters I was thinking to throw low and get my curveball over for a strike. In the end we got out of it.”
Parkwood head coach Andrew Starnes knew his team had missed out on a big inning that could have set the tone for the rest of the night.
“We lost out on a chance to capitalize on some momentum early,” said Starnes. “It just seemed like the guys did not capitalize after that. We just didn't play our ball and that is really what it came down to. When you are at somebody else's park you have to capitalize and be the one to take advantage. We did not do that tonight.”
East made their first scoring chance of the night count in the bottom of the third to take a 1-0 lead. Cory Waldroup sizzled a ball to short with one out that Zach Farmer could not get in front of. He stole second, then took third on a throw to first after a strikeout on a wild pitch. Williams brought him in with a single to center.
The Rebels got it right back in the fourth. Plattenburg reached first on an error and raced around the sacks to score on Nick Beaver's double to left.
East first baseman Ryan McIntire had an immediate response the the bottom half. He rocketed a ball on top of the batting cage in deep center to break the tie. The Eagles scored one additional run in the inning. Craven walked after the homer, then was sacrificed to second. He stole third, moments before Waldroup drew a two-out walk.
Hoping to get at least one more run, Tricarico called for a delayed steal. Waldroup ran to the middle of the baseline in between first and second to create a rundown. He stayed in it long enough for Craven to scoot home before being tagged out.
Williams, McIntire and Craven drove in a run each in the fifth to put the Eagles up 6-1 with two innings remaining.
“Once we started to put the ball in play and put pressure on them, we were able to open it up a little bit,” said Tricarico.
The Rebels gave it one last shot in the sixth. With two runs already in, they had runners on second and third with two outs. Williams uncorked a wild pitch that went to the left side of the backstop. Farmer sprinted in from third, but the throw from catcher Nathan Campbell to Williams was in time to tag Farmer out.
Williams struck out two in the seventh including the final batter to seal it. He had seven punch-outs for the game.
“We're pleased to get this first one,” said Tricarico.
McIntire finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Williams had two hits as well to help his own cause.
The Eagles (16-6) will host Central Carolina Conference foe North Rowan in Saturday’s second round at 7:30. The Cavaliers defeated South Stokes 7-1. East swept the regular season meetings.
“We have beaten them twice but that does not mean much,” Williams said. “If we show up we can get the win, but the main thing is we need to hit the ball and play good defense.”
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.