Prep baseball: Salisbury 11, East Davidson 7
By Mike London
SALISBURY — After the final out of the Central Carolina Conference Tournament, weary Salisbury pitcher Philip Tonseth saw the game ball rolling through the infield and found the energy to chase it down.
He scooped it up and stuffed it in his back pocket — a golden memory of yet another championship for the Hornets in the 2010-11 school year.
“This was a ball I wanted to keep,” an exhausted Tonseth said. “It’s not just big for me. It’s big for the school. I know how hard we worked for it.”
A week ago, the Hornets were distraught over losing the regular season finale at East Davidson, a game they were sure they should have won.
But baseball offers plenty of second chances. The Hornets took advantage of theirs, socking 15 hits, leading all the way and outscoring East Davidson 11-7 in front of a packed house at Robertson Stadium. The CCC tourney championship is Salisbury’s first since 2006.
“We lost some tough ones and finished fourth,” Salisbury coach Scott Maddox said. “But I told the guys they’d get their chance to make amends. Now we’re a No. 2 seed. We get a first-round home game Friday (against Piedmont), and now it’s like those tough losses never happened.”
Don’t be surprised if East Davidson coach Dan Tricarico attends Salisbury’s graduation ceremonies just to make sure Tonseth accepts a diploma. He has to be tired of seeing him. Besides pitching a complete game, Tonseth drove in three runs.
“Tonseth sucked it up and pitched well and kept his composure,” Tricarico said. “Even when he was tired, he kept pitching and kept competing. He impressed me.”
Six Hornets enjoyed multi-hit games, and Salisbury (14-10) put runs on the board in six different innings. The Hornets’ infield made some errors, but it also turned two double plays to help Tonseth.
“We couldn’t make a good run at ’em,” said Tricarico, who took a foul line drive off his chest early in the game while he was in the third-base coaching box. “They were able to keep building almost every inning. That’s just a great job on their part.”
Tonseth roped a double to right-center to score Brian Bauk for a 1-0 lead in the opening inning, and Salisbury made it 2-0 on Scott van der Poel’s two-out single.
Salisbury, the visiting team on its home field, bunched five singles for a three-run fifth. Tonseth batted with two out and runners at second and third, and he delivered a two-run single.
“I was just lucky to drive some curveballs up the middle tonight,” Tonseth said.
Maddox had called on John Knox to move two runners with a sacrifice bunt prior to Tonseth’s clutch hit. He was giving up the second out of the inning, so the bunt defied standard baseball strategy, but Maddox has that much faith in Tonseth. Tonseth came through once again.
“Later in the game, we might think about pitching around Tonseth with a base open, but not in the second inning,” Tricarico said.
Van Der Poel delivered his second two-out RBI single in the top of the fourth to make it 6-0, but things tightened up in the bottom half when the Golden Eagles (14-10) sent 10 to the plate and scored four times. Van der Poel bailed Tonseth out of that inning by making a running catch of a long foul ball down the left-field line with the bases loaded.
“I saw it well off the bat, and we needed to make a play,” Van der Poel said. “They’d knocked us out of this tournament a few times. We needed to get them back.”
Salisbury didn’t wilt after ED’s four-run rally, putting up two in the fifth, two in the sixth, one in the seventh.
“We were aggressive offensively, 1 through 9,” Maddox said. “If we don’t keep scoring runs, it was going to be tough to hang on.”
Tonseth did hang on. He leads the county in mental meetings with himself, and he had a few extra sessions behind the mound during Monday’s marathon. Those meetings were to focus on honoring his friend, Patrick Snider, the North Rowan pitcher who died of cancer last summer.
“I reminded myself how much was riding on this,” Tonseth said. “And I reminded myself to throw every pitch for Patrick. He’s been my inspiration all year.”