Patriots Post Dramatic Win Over Forsyth Country Day
Two highly ranked teams and a marquee pitching matchup added up to a wild ride for a capacity crowd at John Williams Field on Thursday.
A two-out single up the middle by Pat Moore in the bottom of the seventh inning provided the winning run as Pinecrest bounced back from blowing a three-run lead in the top of the frame to defeat Forsyth Country Day 5-4.
Patriot ace Dillon Maples was the main object of attention for about 40 major league scouts in Perfect Game USA’s National Game of the Week. The scouting service ranked Forsyth Country Day fourth in the country while the Patriots are ranked second in the state in Impact Baseball’s 4A pre-season poll.
“This is like a state championship atmosphere,” Forsyth coach Andy Partin said afterward. “That’s what we want our group to participate in.”
The season-opener for both teams got under way in rather bizarre fashion as the Furies sent four batters boasting Division I commitments to the plate against Maples. The right-hander struck out two batters and walked one before University of South Carolina-bound D.C. Arendas grounded out on the team’s first swing of the game.
On a night Maples was being limited to a pitch count of 60, the visitors did not offer on another serve again until Robert DeLuca grounded out on his 38th pitch, ending the second inning.
“We definitely weren’t trying to run his pitch count up or anything like that,” Partin said. “I thought our hitters did a great job trying to see some pitches early in the count. We definitely wanted to see how sharp he was going to be and kind of make some adjustments.”
While Maples was being clocked at 93 to 95 miles per hour, fellow UNC commit Adam Griffin was in the 91-93 range against a Patriot lineup that was being aggressive in the strike zone. With two outs in the bottom of the third, Cam Embler walked before Joey Vecchione sent a screeching line drive over the fence in right-center for a 2-0 Patriot lead.
“It was a 3-2 pitch and I was just looking for something I could drive,” Vecchione said. “When you’ve got Dillon throwing 90-plus and Adam Griffin throwing 90-plus, you don’t have to do much yourself — just make contact.”
With one out in the top of the fourth, UNC-signed George Carter used that formula to get the first hit off Maples, a solo home run to left-center. Maples struck out the next batter with his 60th pitch before being replaced by freshman left-hander Tristan Helms.
Ranked 14th in the nation among seniors by MaxPreps/CBS Sports.com, Maples struck out seven batters and walked two.
“As a matter of fact, I didn’t feel like I had my best stuff,” he said. “I had a good enough command of my fast ball to get by a few innings. My curve ball started to come later on.”
A single by Bryce Owen and a double by Evan Guy produced a Patriot run in the fourth. Moore walked with one out in the bottom of the fifth and came all the way around on a passed ball and two wild pitches, making it 4-1.
The game was now in the hands of a freshman pitcher. After pitching a scoreless fifth and sixth, Helms walked the first batter in the top of the seventh and was replaced by Guy. Some infield shenanigans helped give the Fury new life.
Brandon Culbreth (N.C. State) hit a tailor-made double play ground ball that scooted under the glove of Vecchione at short. Seth Constable (South Carolina) followed with a two-run single. With Vecchione on the mound, Griffin brought home the equalizer with a sacrifice fly. A dropped pop fly by Maples, now at shortstop, put the go-ahead run on third before Vecchione retired the side with a strikeout.
“We had some ups and downs in the game, but we didn’t lose our intensity at all,” Moore said of the between innings atmosphere in the Patriot dugout. “I think that’s what helped us come through.”
The third Fury pitcher, 6-foot-6 Tyler Alberts, faced the Pats in the bottom of the seventh. The first batter, Austin Embler, another freshman starter, began the at bat by lining a pitch over the right field fence about 20 feet foul. He then ripped a single to right and was bunted up a base by his brother, Cam Embler.
Walks to Vecchione and Maples (intentional) loaded the bases with one out. Culbreth fanned Owen before Moore ended it with his game-winning knock.
“Pat Moore was huge right there at the end,” Patriot coach Jeff Hewitt said. “But a freshman, Austin Embler, got us in a position to win a ball game. Another freshman (Helms) kept us in the game. Every pitcher we threw did an awesome job. We couldn’t be more proud of our kids, the community and the support we got tonight.”
Vecchione received credit for the win. Starting shortstop Bailey Rush missed the game because of an eye injury suffered during a practice mishap. He is also expected to be idle tonight when the Patriots face Riverside in a 5 p.m. start at Durham Athletic Park.
Contact Charlie Bergmann at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pinecrest 5, FCDS 4
R H E
Forsyth 0 0 0 1 0 0 3 4 4 0
Pinecrest 0 0 2 1 0 1 1 5 5 2
Griffin, Culbreth (5) and Dunn; Maples, Helms (4), Guy (7), Vecchione (7). WP – Vecchione LP-Culbreth; Leading hitters -(F) Carter 1-4, HR, Constable 1-3, 2 RBI; (P) Vecchione 1-2, HR, 2 RBI, Moore 1-3, RBI, Guy 1-3, DB, RBI.
More like this story