1A Baseball Playoffs: North Rowan 19, Chatham Central 4
By David Shaw
SPENCER — North Rowan removed one more item from its To-Do list Friday night.
The Cavs gave first-year coach Aaron Rimer his first 1A state playoff victory — a 19-4 thrashing of visiting Chatham Central.
“It feels good,” Rimer crowed after North (21-6) earned a second-round date with East Montgomery. “I’m just glad the guys came out focused tonight. We went out and went after it. They played like it was a state playoff game.”
North played like it had a bus to catch. As thunder cleared its throat in the distance, the Cavs hit the ground running. They batted around in each of the first three innings, collected five extra-base hits and sent an enthusiastic crowd home after five innings.
“I knew if we came out hitting, we’d be able to win the game,” first-baseman Tyler Wyatt said. “With us it’s contagious. When one guy hits, everyone hits.”
North battered three Central pitchers, although none of its 12 hits came against starter and losing pitcher Chase Fuquay. The left-handed freshman faced only six batters, five of whom crossed the plate during NR’s eight-run first inning.
“He didn’t throw strikes,” losing coach Bill Slaughter said after the guests closed up shop with a 6-16 record. “In a playoff game you can’t go deep in the count batter after batter. We just couldn’t get them out. When we needed to make a play, we didn’t.”
Fuquay trailed 2-0 when he was replaced by Zach Burke with one out and the bases loaded in the top of the first. North’s Hunter Feezor christened the reliever with a first-pitch, bases-clearing double down the right-field line.
“In that situation, bases loaded, I knew he’d throw me a fastball,” Feezor said after driving home a career-best seven runs. “It was outside. I just wanted to make contact, hit it hard somewhere.”
Slaughter praised CC right-fielder Seth Elkins, but added, “That was a blooper, a play that should have been made,” he said. “But it fell in and they ran around the bases. That’s a microcosm of our season right there.”
Before the inning was over — North sent 12 men to the plate — Dakoka Brown lined a run-scoring single into left field and Wyatt whipped the first of NR’s three triples, a two-run rope that found the right-center gap. Thrown in the mix were three free passes, a hit batsman and an infield error.
“There’s was no letdown that inning,” Rimer said. “(Chatham Central) gave us a few extra outs and our guys took full advantage of it.”
North’s hit parade continued an inning later, moments after winning pitcher Dusty Agner (6-1) was roughed up for four runs on five hits in the top of the second. The Cavs extended an 8-4 lead with five second-inning runs, the last when Brown stole home on the front end of a double steal.
“We were having a lot of fun with each other,” said Feezor. “Seems like we always do.”
The party reached dizzying heights in the last of the third when North plated six more runs, this time against CC right-hander Carson Joyce. Catcher Alex Morgan and outfielder Matt Laurens were each hit by pitches to open the inning. Then Feezor crunched an 0-1 pitch over the fence in center field, providing a 16-4 advantage.
“He’s had a so-so year,” Rimer said of Feezor, now a .296 hitter with 22 RBIs. “He’s got tremendous snap. I mean, the ball comes off his bat hard. When he barrels it up, it goes. Tonight, he had an idea of what was coming with each pitch. That’s how he plays the game.”
North’s final runs scored on Wesley Barker’s two-out triple to right and Matt Mauldin’s two-run single to left. Rimer made several defensive changes in the top of the fourth — half the infield was spelled and reliever Tyler Blume summoned. It paid off when third-baseman Justin Ogg initiated a 5-4-3 double play.
Lefty fireman Josh Price closed the game out for North with a couple of fifth-inning strikeouts.
“We’ve still got a long way to go,” said Wyatt (3-for-4, 4 RBIs). “We’ve just got to keep hitting.”
NOTES: North will host East Montgomery (12-12) on Tuesday night. The Cavs blanked EM 6-0 and 1-0 in YVC regular-season games.
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