Prep baseball: North Rowan 5, Chatham Central 4
By David Shaw
SPENCER — North Rowan’s baseball team took a step in the right direction Monday night.
Never mind that Monday’s 5-4 YVC win over visiting Chatham Central started under threatening skies on Friday and didn’t finish until the eighth inning yesterday.
“I don’t care how long we have to wait for a W,” coach Aaron Rimer said. “We just needed to win.”
This one helped North (5-5, 4-5) launch the second half of its conference season with a bit of momentum. There’s nothing wrong with a kick from behind — as long as you’re facing the right direction.
“It was exciting from start to finish,” junior righthander Travis Holshouser said after providing six innings of sparkling relief. “Now we’ve got to keep going in the same direction. We’ve got to keep that intensity up.”
North secured the victory when Parker Smith — an outfielder who wasn’t in the starting lineup Friday — cracked a two-out, run-scoring double to left-center field in the bottom the eighth inning.
“It was right down the pipe,” Smith said after crushing an 0-1 fastball from Central reliever Vic Stinson. “I just put the bat out there, watched the ball connect and hoped for the best.”
Teammate Mason Jennings scored the winning run after bouncing a one-out single to right, stealing second and advancing to third on a groundout. “We have to do the little things to win,” he said. “Bunting, moving runners over, stealing bases. I don’t think we’ve had a home run all year.”
Chatham Central coach Bill Slaughter called North “a scrappy little team,” after his squad fell to 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the YVC.
“Really, there’s not a bad team in this league,” he added. “After South Stanly, the unbeaten guys, the battle for second place is wide open.”
Righthander Clint Veal (3-1) started and finished the game on the mound for North. He pitched one inning Friday and allowed an unearned run before an explosive storm drenched the field. When play resumed yesterday Holshouser took the ball and pitched through the seventh inning, yielding three unearned runs.
“Travis pitched his tail off,” Rimer said. “He threw three pitches on any count and all three were on. He kept us in the game.”
North tied the score against lefty Chase Fuquay in the last of the third when Chance Mazza legged out an infield hit and scored when Jennings sliced a double into the left-field corner. Teammate Jake Smith’s two-out single to right gave the Cavs a 3-2 lead.
It stayed that way until the sixth when Jake Smith singled and eventually scored on a throwing error, providing a two-run North lead heading to the seventh.
“We probably could have gone to Veal right then,” Rimer said. “But (Holshouser) wanted the ball and we wanted him to have it.”
Holshouser — a junior with a sneaky-quick fastball — felt he had enough giddy-up left to close it out. “I went out there looking to finish,” he said. “I knew what I had to do.”
Unfortunately, the Cavs made a costly seventh-inning error that helped produce a pair of Central runs, forcing the game into extra innings. “We’ve been making fundamental errors all season,” Holshouser said. “That’s what we need to fix.”
Veal relieved in the top of the eighth and escaped unscathed despite another error, North’s sixth of the game. That set the stage for Jennings and Parker Smith to provide the game-winning heroics.
“We never go up there just to swing,” Jennings said. “We always go up there with an approach, trying to make something happen.”
Added Smith: “It was just a big win for us. I’m glad we pulled it out.”
NOTES: Rimer was forced to play several of his players out-of-position. But the defensive gem of the night came in the top of the eighth when third-baseman John Hartly snared Zack Burke’s heat-seeking grounder and turned it into an inning-ending fielder’s choice. “When did John Hartly turn into David Wright?” Rimer wondered. … The Cavs return to action Wednesday night at South Rowan.