Patriots Improve to 6-0
The undefeated Pinecrest baseball team sent 14 men to the plate in a nine-run bottom of the first inning against Hoke County Tuesday evening, paving the way for a 12-3 victory.
After the Bucks reached Patriot starting pitcher Jackson Smith for three runs in the top of the frame, Matt Epley led the Patriot response, knocking a home run and a double good for three runs in two at bats. Pitching in relief, Hunter Phillips and Joe Lewis then combined to allow the visitors no runs and just one hit and a walk over the final six innings.
Coach Jeff Hewitt’s squad takes a 6-0 record into tonight’s 7 p.m. contest at home against Lumberton.
The eight pitchers the Patriot coach has used so far this season have allowed a total of eight earned runs, giving the team an ERA of 1.37. The staff has struck out 51 batters while walking only 18.
“We’ve had a plethora of kids that have gone out there and done a good job throwing strikes,” Hewitt said. “If you had told me earlier in the year that we’d be 6-0 going into the Lumberton game …”
All of the scoring came in the first two innings on the chilly night. Smith walked the first two batters he faced in his first mound appearance of the season before Jonathan Cummings doubled in the first Buck run. An error and a single by Dan Barrington brought home the next two.
Tristan Helms continued his strong start with the bat by leading off the Patriot half of the inning with a line drive single to center and scored the first run on a throwing error. A solo shot over the fence in left by Epley made it 3-2. On consecutive at bats, Dylan Wallace, Smith and Seve Shultis each poked singles the opposite way into right field to further stoke the big rally.
A Buck error, a run-scoring single by Dalton Bullard, and the double by Epley on a ball that was lost in the lights by the Buck right fielder were all included in the 45-minute inning. A two-base hit to right-center by Aaron Reimer, and a run-scoring single by Joe Cirigliano, were included in the Patriots’ three-run bottom of the second.
Also making their first mound appearances of the season, Phillips, who was credited with the win, and Lewis, spun a no-drama final six innings.
Pitching the last four, Lewis faced only one more than the minimum 13 batters, allowing one hit and no walks while striking out six.
“It was awesome — a good chance,” the sophomore right-hander said. “Usually I’m down in the bullpen helping the other guys get ready, which I love to do. It was awesome to have my team behind my back. I knew if anything was hit, they would have it.”
Anchoring the infield in his second year as the Patriot shortstop, after playing third as a freshman, Austin Embler handled four more chances flawlessly. The junior is visibly more confident than he was a year ago.
“I’ll tell you what he’s doing,” Hewitt said. “He’s coming to get the ball. Last year he was sitting back a little bit and letting the ball play him. Now he’s getting the hop he wants.”
A tough two-game stretch of league games begins tonight followed by Scotland High at home on Tuesday.
“We just come out here and do what needs to be done to win ball games,” Embler said. “Our pitchers are throwing strikes and our hitters are hitting the ball solid. We’re doing everything we’ve learned in practice and everything is producing.”
R H E
Hoke 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 3 3 3
Pinecrest 9 3 0 0 0 0 x — 12 11 1
E. Barrington, Santiago (2) and D. Barrington; Smith, Phillips (2), Lewis (4) and Bullard; WP – Phillips LP –E. Barrington Save – Lewis. Leading hitters – (H) Cummings 1-2 DB, RBI, D. Barrington 1-3, RBI (P) Epley 2-5, HR, DB, 4 RBI, Helms 2-3, RBI, Reimer 1-2, DB, Cirigliano 1-3, RBI, Bullard 1-2, RBI
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