Patriots Go Extra for Win
Hits and runs had been hard to come by as the Pinecrest and Sanderson baseball teams went into extra innings at John W. Williams Field Friday night. It was a good bet the issue would be ultimately decided by “small ball.”
With the score tied at 2-2, the Patriots’ Jackson Maples ripped a pinch-hit single into right center with one out in the bottom of the ninth and stole second.
The sophomore then beat the throw to third on ground ball hit to the Spartan shortstop.
The next hitter was senior Alan Watson. The Spartans had tied the game in the top of the fifth with a daring steal of home. The Patriots failed to push the winning run across from third with one out in the seventh and bunted into a double play in the eighth.
Watson got the sign for the suicide squeeze.
“The pitch was a little high, but I knew I had to get the bunt down because the runner from third was barreling,” he said.
Watson pushed the bunt toward first base. The Spartan first baseman’s only chance was to hope the ball rolled foul. It didn’t. Seconds later the Patriot senior was under a pile of teammates near the pitcher’s mound, celebrating the 3-2 victory.
“Our coaches told us all week in practice that one of our players was going to have a big opportunity to win a game for us,” Watson said. “I thank Jackson for getting on base to start the inning.”
Matt Eddy, the third of four Patriot pitchers that combined to limit the Spartans to one earned run and just five hits, received credit for the win. He also had two of his team’s seven base hits, including a fourth-inning home run.
The Patriots take a 2-0 record into Monday’s 5 p.m. game at Union Pines.
Patriot starting pitcher Weston Phillips left the game with two out in the top of the fifth with a 2-0 lead. The Pats built a first-inning run around a lead-off single by Cam Embler and a sacrifice fly by Bryce Owen. The home run by Eddy that hit halfway up the scoreboard in right center made it 2-0 in the fourth.
Phillips had scattered four hits, walked two batters and struck out six when Patriot coach Jeff Hewitt brought on sophomore Jackson Smith to get the final out of the fifth on a pop out to shortstop Austin Embler.
The Spartans greeted the third Patriot pitcher, Matt Epley, with a walk and a single to center in the top of the sixth. An infield grounder brought home the visitors’ first run.
With two outs, Daniel Dulaney was on third base. He broke for home as Epley went into his windup. The low pitch beat the runner but catcher Owen could not hold on and the game was tied at 2-2.
“It’s a fun play, but it’s not one you pull out of your hat very often,” Spartan coach Todd Laughlin said. “My nerves always get going when we make that call, but sometimes you have to take a chance and that one worked out.”
Epley and Eddy shut down the Spartans the rest of the way. Hewitt said that Eddy approached him in the dugout after retiring three in a row in the top of the ninth.
“Matt told me that he was going to stay right on the mound until they give up,” the coach recalled. “That’s says a lot about where his maturity level is right now.”
The home team made up for the missed opportunities in the seventh and eighth innings by combining the base hit and hustle on the bases by Maples with the perfect execution of the squeeze bunt by Watson.
“Alan has been doing everything we asked him to do since day one of practice,” Hewitt said. “What a great bunt. Jackson Maples was a sparkplug for us tonight. Again, our pitching held us right in the game.”
Dulaney was 2-for-2 at bat for Sanderson, now 1-1. Spartan third baseman Christopher Silber made the fielding play of the game in the eighth inning.
He made a diving grab of a sacrifice bunt attempt by Austin Embler before it hit the ground and then sprang up to double the runner off first.
R H E
Sanderson 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 — 2 5 1
Pinecrest 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 — 3 7 2
Hardee, Haran (6) and Willard; Phillips, Smith (5), Epley (6), Eddy (8) and Owen; WP – Eddy; LP – Haran; Leading hitters: (S) Dulaney 2-2, Smiley 1-3, RBI; (P) Eddy 2-3, HR, RBI, Mace 1-4, DB, Wallace 1-3, DB, Watson 1-3 RBI.
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