Prep Baseball: Eagles secure CCC championship, 4-0
Statistically speaking, East Davidson and West Davidson were just about even in every category during Thursday's Central Carolina Conference regular season championship battle.
Except for one – runs.
The Golden Eagles plated runs with runners on base while West came away empty, resulting in a 4-0 East victory that gives them the outright conference championship and all-important top seed for the 2-A state playoffs.
“The story of the game is they got hits with runners on base and we didn't,” said WDHS head coach Jerry Walser.
His club left 11 runners aboard, as Nick Williams went the distance on the hill for the Eagles, working his way out of multiple jams to secure the shutout.
“Nick was great,” said East skipper Dan Tricarico. “I cannot believe what he had at the end. He was up near 100 pitches and when they get that high we are ready to yank them. But I felt like it is his senior night and that he had enough left in the tank.”
West starter Chandler Simerson had escaped a jam in the very first inning after surrendering a leadoff double to Kelvin Pena. Three grounders got him to the second inning unharmed.
The guests put Williams in his first predicament of the night in the next half inning, getting runners to second and third with one out. But a popup and strikeout thwarted the scoring chance.
Toby Craven singled to start the bottom half, moving to second on a ground out to the pitcher by Kolton Hawks. A Jake Geren single to left had Craven 90 feet from home plate. He would come home on the next swing by Tyler Rhodes – a sizzling grounder up the middle and into center.
Though that run turned out to be enough, the Eagles added some insurance in the third inning with a swing of the bat.
Nathan Campbell walked and promptly stole second base after nearly being picked off by Simerson. Cleanup hitter Ryan McIntire fell behind 0-2 in the count and looked for something he could handle. Simerson wound up giving him exactly what he wanted, a pitch across the outer part of the plate that the slugger took the opposite way out of the park for a two-run homer. The swing moved the East lead to 3-0 with four innings left.
“I was just looking for something outside to get my hands on,” said McIntire. “They were leaving it outside so just wait back and hit it that way.”
It was the kind of approach at the plate Tricarico has preached to his team over and over.
“That is something as a coach you try to coach, but they have to be willing to try and do it,” he said. “Ryan did a great job. He had two strikes and got a fastball up. Short swing and boom it is out of the park.”
In the fourth, Pena drew a walk and headed for second on a single off the bat of Williams. The speedy senior was perhaps a little too aggressive on the next play, but it worked anyway. Campbell lifted a sacrifice fly to center. Pena took off on the catch and slid in safely as the throw sailed over the head of Zack Queen at third base. With the ball bouncing along the fence, Pena sprang to his feet and headed for home despite Tricarico urging him not too. The throw by Simerson was wide of the plate and Pena slid in with the fourth run.
West still believed they had a shot at rallying and had something brewing in the fifth. They loaded the sacks with two outs and had one of their power hitters in Queen at the plate. But Williams was able to get a pitch in on the hands and jammed Queen. The shallow popup was secured by Craven at short.
“Hats off to East,” said Walser. “We did not make many glaring mistakes to give them anything. They just earned everything that they got.”
Williams struck out four in the final two innings for the complete game eight-hitter. He was showered with an ice bath by his teammates afterward. The Eagles looked quite relieved to have it all be over after a rough night three evenings before in Tyro.
“We could see it slipping away from us after the way we played Monday night,” said Tricarico. “The kids knew it was just one of those games, so I feel like we were able to throw it out and regroup. I am tickled for these seniors and our whole team.”
Pena and Craven each had two hits for the 14-5 Eagles, who finish the CCC slate at 9-1. The Green Dragons (13-8, 8-2) saw Hunt, Simerson and Chance Fortenberry all get two hits.
The conference tournament will be held next week at West Davidson.
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.