Epley Leads Pats Past Lee County
Pinecrest rode the arm and bat of Matt Epley to a 6-0 victory over Lee County at John W. Williams Field Tuesday evening.
Epley allowed only three hits and struck out 10 batters while walking two. The rising senior did not allow a hit after the second inning. He was 3-for-3 at bat, including a double and an RBI.
The Patriots improved to 5-4 overall after the Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League inter-division contest. They are scheduled to travel to Lee County for a game tonight.
In addition to Epley’s effort, coach Jeff Hewitt’s squad has gotten strong pitching performances from Tristan Helms, Aaron Reimer and Hunter Phillips during the recent surge, backed by strong play in the field.
“You look for ‘aha’ moments that will carry into spring ball or into the fall so we can work on it,” the coach said. “Even the kids are like: ‘We’re improving.’ They can see that. That was just a quality win for us.”
Epley said that he felt good warming up in the bullpen before the game.
“Coach told me I was going to pitch this game on Sunday so I had some time to get my mind ready to pitch,” the All-Southeastern Conference honoree this spring said. “I was trying my hardest to hit my spots and trying to get the ball in play so my fielders could make the plays.”
It was pretty much smooth sailing for the right-hander after the second inning.
The Jackets put two aboard in the opening frame, but Epley combined with Dylan Wallace to pick a runner off first to end the inning. Nat Pearce singled to center to start the top of the second before the Patriots engineered a brilliant double play.
Dalton Spivey hit a slow roller in front of the plate that Epley pounced on and fired a strike to shortstop Austin Embler for the force out. Embler’s quick exchange and throw to Wallace completed the improbable twin-killing.
“I turned and threw as hard as I could,” Epley said. “Austin made a great play on that by keeping his balance.”
A lead-off single by Embler, a wild pitch, a sacrifice bunt by Helms and a passed ball, gave the Patriots a 1-0 lead at the end of the first. Ryan Bender led off the bottom of the second with an infield single. The inning went downhill for the visitors from there.
Three Jacket errors, a walk and a two-run single by Helms added up to four runs and a 5-0 Patriot lead.
In the top of the fourth, the Jackets had a runner on second with two out when Embler went deep in the hole at short to field a ground ball. The rising junior threw out Hampton Thomas, with Wallace making the pick on the short hop.
“Austin Embler had an unbelievable game at shortstop,” Hewitt said.
While Epley and the Patriot defense were retiring 16 of the final 18 Jackets to come to the plate, the pitcher singled home Helms with the game’s final run in the sixth.
“I had the opportunity to call the pitches because Daniel (pitching coach Coles) wasn’t here tonight,” Hewitt said. “It was a joy with the command Matt had of his breaking ball early. He was able to use the change-up and I think we had them guessing at times.”
The Patriot junior varsity team (6-1-1) defeated the Jackets 8-1 for its sixth win in a row. Joe Lewis did not a allow a hit in the game that was stopped after four and a half innings. The Pats wrapped things up with a four-run fourth that included base hits by Zach Martinez and Ayinde McKnight.
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