Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 24, 2013
By Mike London
SALISBURY — East Davidson baseball coach Dan Tricario grabbed Salisbury pitcher Brian Bauk as he walked slowly from the field at Robertson Stadium.
“I had to tell that kid that in all my years that was as good and as gutsy a performance as I’d ever seen,” Tricarico said.
Bauk’s mound effort — nine innings, two hits, 13 strikeouts, zero walks — wasn’t enough to beat East Davidson on Tuesday. The fourth-ranked Golden Eagles scratched the decisive run in the 10th, with pinch-runner Kelvin Pena scoring on a shallow sac fly to right by Josh Craven to win 2-1. That run lifted East Davidson (17-2, 9-0) to its first CCC title in a dozen years.
Craven came in batting .146, but Bauk and East Davidson hurlers Braxton Shetley, who fired eight dominating innings, and winning reliever Nick Williams (2-0) made everyone look like .146 hitters.
“It was a very tough pitching matchup, but we’ve worked and prepared to be conference champions,” said Shetley, who fanned 14. “I just worried about throwing strikes. I knew my defense was behind me.”
It was. East Davidson fielded more smoothly and also did a better job of situational hitting.
“That was one of the finest high school ballgames I’ve ever been associated with,” a drained Tricarico said. “We just executed a little better. We got our bunts down and put a little bit more pressure on them.”
Bauk was calm after the setback.
“We didn’t play our best game,” said Bauk, who had three hits — one more than he allowed. “We had our opportunities, but we didn’t take advantage. We can’t hang our heads. We’ve got a lot of games to play.”
Salisbury had runners at second and third with no outs in the first inning, but Shetley struck out dangerous No. 3 hitter Chance Bowden, and worked his way out of it.
East Davidson got a gift run in the fourth when Trevor Jones singled, moved a base on Tyler Stroup’s bunt and scored when Bauk fired a wild pitch, and catcher Skyler Mikkelson then threw wildly past third base.
Shetley made that run hold up until Bauk scored a run on his own in the sixth. He led off with an infield hit. He was almost doubled off first on Bowden’s lineout, but when the throw to first got away, he scrambled to second. Then he stole third and scored on a high throw by the catcher.
“I was worried,” Tricarico said. “Not just because it was tied but because we were on the road and that play gave them all the momentum.”
The eighth was frantic. East Davidson stranded runners at second and third when Salisbury second baseman Alex Yang snagged a liner at his ankles. Salisbury loaded the bases in the bottom half, but Shetley struck out Ben Ritchie to end the threat.
Then Salisbury (11-9, 7-2) stranded pinch-runner Justin Ruffin at third base in the ninth.
Riley Myers (5-2) relieved Bauk to start the 10th.
“Brian was at 112 pitches,” SHS coach Scott Maddox said. “He gave an unbelievable performance because he didn’t do what he did against average guys. That’s a heck of a team over there. They’re 17-2 for a reason.”
Myers walked Ryan McIntyre, and Pena ran for him. Next came a popup just beyond the infield on the right side. It would’ve been routine except Yang and first baseman Bowden were playing in for a bunt. It fell safely.
“That ball had some tail to it, but Chance still makes that play 99 percent of the time,” Maddox said.
After Avery Bowles did his job with a sacrifice bunt, Craven came through with his sacrifice fly to right. Scott Friedrich’s throw home was strong, but it also was high, and Pena scored a run that meant a title.
“I was real calm and relaxed,” Craven said. “All I was thinking about was executing like we do in practice.”