Pinecrest Nine Beat Bulldogs; Face Union Pines Friday
Pinecrest and Union Pines are set to meet for the third time this season at 7 p.m. Friday evening in one of the semi-final games of the Chatlee Boat and Marine Easter Invitational baseball tournament.
The Patriots (11-3) took advantage of four infield errors Thursday to jump out to a 6-0 lead in the top of the first inning on the way to a 19-7 victory over Terry Sanford (12-5).
Union Pines (9-4) advanced when Fayetteville Christian was a no-show for the evening game. The Vikings will play host to the Patriots.
Richmond Senior defeated Northwood 3-2 in one of the two first round games played at Southern Lee. The Raiders meet Southern Lee, a 9-6 winner over Massaponax (Va.), in Friday’s other semi-final game at Southern Lee. Saturday’s consolation games and championship tilt will be held at Southern Lee. Nathan Arp took the mound against Pinecrest with a record of 5-0 and an ERA of 0.97 for Big South Conference leading Terry Sanford. After retiring the first batter, Austin Embler, Cam Embler beat out a slow infield roller.
The only other Patriot hit of the inning was a two-run single through the left side of the infield by Matt Epley. But four infield errors and four walks added up to six runs before the side was retired.
Epley also made key contributions with his glove and his arm as the Bulldogs tried to mount a comeback.
The Fayetteville squad got two back in the bottom of the first off Patriot starter Tristan Helms with both runs scoring on a double by Austin Warren. With runners on second and third, center fielder Epley retired the side with a diving back-handed catch of a line drive struck by Trey Davis – saving two runs.
“I was just hustling for it in the gap,” Epley said. “I knew if it bounced I could get my body in front of it. I saw I had a chance so I dove for it and got it at the last second.”
The sixth home run of the season by Matt Eddy in the top of the second and the first by Alan Watson in the third, helped stake Helms to a 9-3 lead, going into the bottom of the fifth.
The Bulldogs rallied for two runs making it 9-5 as Jackson Maples replaced Helms to get the final two outs of the inning. The Patriots then took advantage of four walks, two passed balls and a wild pitch to increase their lead to 12-5 in the top of the sixth.
The Bulldogs made noise again on the bottom half before Epley was called to the mound and closed the door. They had two runs in and two aboard when the junior grabbed a hot shot back to the mound off the bat of Austin Warren. He threw the ball to shortstop Austin Embler who completed the twin-killing with a toss to first baseman Eddy.
“I have confidence in myself and in my teammates to make plays,” Epley said. “I thought if I could throw strikes, I could get out of it.”
The Patriots then scored seven times in a top of the seventh that included a two-run scorcher threw the Bulldog shortstop by Cam Embler and six more bases on balls that gave them a total of 18 free passes for the game.
Patriot coach Jeff Hewitt was pleased with his hitters’ at bats against a tough left-handed pitcher in Arp who left the mound after three innings.
“All in all we made the plays when we had to,” he said. The pitchers took a little while, but we got our outs. A lot of people would be happy with 19 runs.
“We’re where we want to be. Now we have to get focused for the next game. It’s a program goal to put ourselves in a position to win an Easter tournament.”
Cam Embler, Eddy, Bryce Owen and Epley each had two hits for the Pats. Eddy drove in four runs and Cam Embler and Owen each drove in three. Helms (3-1) was credited with the win. Arp, Joe Ingle, Michael Downing and Taylor Warren had two hits apiece for the Bulldogs.
Pinecrest defeated Union Pines 12-9 at home and lost to the Vikings 10-9 on the road. Both teams have important conference games on Tuesday. The Patriots entertain Southeastern Conference leader Scotland County. The Vikings travel to Gray’s Creek to face the team they share the Cape Fear Valley Conference lead with.
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