Taking a Hit: Pats Improve 3-0 on Summer
With Monday's summer league game between Pinecrest and Hoke County tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning, the stage was set for the Patriots to try to execute one of the most exciting plays in baseball.
The bases were loaded with one out against Hoke pitcher Ronald Womack, the Mid-Southeastern Conference Player of the Year. At the plate for the Patriots was the left-handed batting Jacob Gibson.
"We were going to bunt on the second pitch and he (Womack) hits us on the first pitch," Patriot coach Jeff Hewitt said, revealing that the suicide squeeze was about to be employed.
Instead, the strange game ended anticlimactically with Gibson becoming the seventh batter of the evening to be plunked by a Buck pitcher. Bailey Rush, who was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, was forced in with the winning run.
"I was just honest with the guys, 'that was pretty ugly -- let's get in the dugout'," the Patriot coach said on a night his team committed five errors, making things hard on starting pitcher Joe Vecchione. "Joe did a great job again tonight."
With the 3-2 victory, Pinecrest improved to 3-0 in Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League play while Hoke fell to 2-2. The Pats were scheduled to travel to South View on Tuesday before completing the week with a 6 p.m. home game against Southern Lee on Thursday.
Vecchione, the winning pitcher in last week's victory against Richmond, allowed no earned runs and four hits in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out six batters and walked four.
Joe Herbert struck out the only batter he faced in the top of the seventh to get the Patriots out of a jam. He was the beneficiary of the Patriot run in the bottom half, picking up his second win in four days.
The Patriots took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a double down the right field line by Trent Fredericks and a single through the right side of the Buck infield by Gibson. They increased the margin to 2-0 in the third without the benefit of a hit.
Singles by Luis Renvill and David Santiago, coupled with two Patriot errors, allowed the Bucks to tie the game at 2-2 in the top of the fifth. In the bottom half, Womack, who allowed only one earned run in 63 1/3 innings for Hoke County during the high school season, came on in relief.
Womack put the Bucks in a position to take the lead when he doubled to left center, putting Buck runners on second and third with two outs in the top of the seventh. Hewitt called on Herbert, the winning pitcher in a route-going performance against Union Pines on Friday to take over for Vecchione. He struck out Cameron Locklear to end the threat.
"Another story tonight was Joe (Herbert) coming in there at the end," Hewitt said. "That curve ball he threw was nasty."
With the daylight diminishing, and artificial lighting not available for the summer games at Pinecrest as an expense conservation measure, the umpires and coaches discussed the situation before the bottom of the seventh inning.
After Rush was hit by a pitch, the left-handed batting James Baldwin laced a double down the left field line, putting runners on second and third with none out. Womack then pitched carefully to Dillon Maples, walking him on four pitches.
Fredericks struck out before Gibson became the fourth batter hit by Womack in his three inning stint.
Baldwin and Maples were both coming off impressive showings at the North Carolina State games held at UNC-Charlotte last week.
"That was what J.B. does best -- letting the ball travel, see it, and hit it the other way," Hewitt said of Baldwin's big hit. "That was another great at-bat by a kid who did a great job at the state games and just brought it right over into our league."
Baldwin said that the experience of hitting against some of the best pitchers in the state at UNC-Charlotte has given his confidence a boost.
"I was looking for the fast ball outside and I got it," he said. "I had to come out here and do what I always do -- focus and hit the ball."
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