Epley Leads Patriots Past Cavs
Pinecrest’s Matt Epley combined with two relievers to shut out Southern Lee 4-0 on a chilly Tuesday evening for baseball at John Williams Stadium.
Making his first varsity start on the mound, the junior did not allow a base hit until the Cavaliers’ Christian Showalter doubled with one out in the top of the fifth inning. The Patriots scored all of their runs in the fourth inning, with the first two crossing the plate on a base hit by Alan Watson.
Coach Jeff Hewitt’s squad took a 3-1 record into Thursday’s game at Lee County that was originally scheduled to be played tonight.
“We needed somebody to eat some innings up and do a quality job,” Hewitt said, coming off Monday’s 10-9 loss at Union Pines when four pitchers were used. “Matt did just that.”
Struggling for control of his fastball in the first inning, Epley got out of a second-and-third jam by getting the last two batters out on strikes. The side was retired in the second by a “strike ’em out throw ’em out double play” authored by catcher Bryce Owen and third baseman Justin Mace. The pitcher settled down after getting another strikeout to escape a second-and-third situation in the third.
The decisive Patriot fourth began with a walk to Dylan Wallace. He was erased when Owen reached base on a fielder’s choice. Two batters later, Epley lined a single to left loading the bases. Watson then lashed another single in that direction, scoring Owen and Mace.
With Epley on third and Cam Embler on second, Cav pitcher Connor Gaines threw a wild pitch. Epley scored easily and Embler, never breaking stride, crossed the plate right behind him, making it 4-0.
Epley had retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced when Gaines singled to right with two outs in the sixth. After walking the next batter, Hewitt replaced him with sophomore Jackson Smith.
“I threw 100 pitches so I was getting pretty tired,” Epley said. “My curve ball was staying pretty flat. I felt good warming up, but you never know what’s going to happen on the field. The game is so fast.”
Smith walked a batter to load the bases before the side was retired on a nice running catch by center fielder Tristan Helms.
The first three Cavs reached base against Smith in the seventh on a single by Carlos Collazo and two walks. He was relieved by junior Aaron Reimer, who was one of the pitchers involved in Union Pines’ comeback the night before when bases on balls did the Patriots in.
Reimer was one pitch away from forcing in a run when he struck out Cullen Boyette on a 3-and-2 curve ball. He got the last two batters on outfield flies to record the save.
“I put the past behind me,” the pitcher said, referring to the previous game. “I just had to throw a strikes, I knew that.”
Epley struck out seven batters, walked four and hit one. The Patriots picked up a total of seven hits.
Coming off the tough loss at Union Pines, the outcome couldn’t have been better as far as Hewitt was concerned.
“We wanted to get back in the win column, but we also wanted to challenge our kids a little bit and see how they handled losing,” he said. “Anytime we can come off a 10-9 game and shut a good Southern Lee team down, I’m happy.”
R H E
Southern Lee 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 3 1
Pinecrest 0 0 0 4 0 0 x — 4 7 2
Gaines, Sutherland (4), Jackson (6) and Helsman; Epley, Smith (6), Reimer (7) and Owen. WP –Epley LP – Gaines Save – Reimer; Leading hitters – (S) Showalter 1-2, DB (P) Watson 1-3, 2 RBI
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