Prep Baseball: North comes back to beat Eagles
By Mike London
SPENCER — Uwharrie Charter Academy came to Spencer undefeated and with a hard-throwing college signee on the mound, so North Rowan’s 7-2 victory on Wednesday was meaningful.
The Cavaliers (4-2) batted around and scored six runs in the fifth inning.
The game-turning play was turned in by North second baseman Trey Stoner in the top of the fifth. At that point, Uwharrie Charter’s Eagles led 2-0 and North reliever Joe Harrison had just walked two straight batters. But then Stoner fielded a scalded grounder near the bag and turned it into an inning-ending double play. It was all Cavaliers after that.
“Trey bailed me out,” Harrison said. “After he made that play, I settled in.”
North’s pitchers walked too many. Eight Eagles trotted to first base with free passes. But Harrison (1-0) didn’t walk anyone after that double play.
“You know, for four innings we were just kinda out there,” North coach Aaron Rimer said. “But the last three innings we played some really good baseball.”
Noah Gonzalez started on the bump for the Cavaliers and performed a high-wire act. He walked the bases full in the first inning, but he got out of that mess with two strikeouts. Uwharrie (5-1) stranded two more runners in the second.
The Eagles broke through against Gonzalez in the fourth. Gonzalez’s own throwing error and a walk got him in trouble.
Lee Sells relieved Gonzalez and got a ground ball that should’ve been an inning-ending DP, but North only got one out. Then Uwharrie starting pitcher Bobby Weary belted a two-run double before Sells could get the third out.
North made solid contact against Weary, who is headed to St. Andrews, but he frustrated hitters for four innings. North newcomer Holden Lanier flied out deep to left-center to end the fourth with the bases loaded.
North’s six-run fifth started quietly with an infield hit by Henderson Lentz. Gonzalez walked to put two on. When Corbin Smith bunted, Uwharrie’s defense broke down When the throw to first got away, Lentz scored to cut North’s deficit to 2-1. When Jake Pritchard followed with a double to right, it was 2-2. A balk by reliever Hunter Hagerman scored Smith to put North in front to stay.
Dalton Hammer relieved Hagerman and he walked Brandon White and hit Steven Thurston with a pitch to fill the bases. Hammer got Javin Goodine to pop up and struck out Robbie Monroe, but just when it appeared Uwharrie might escape the inning down 3-2, Lanier ripped a bases-clearing double into the left-field corner.
Lanier’s whistling hit was fair by about a foot, and an excited Rimer waved around Thurston, a burly nose guard. Thurston happily rumbled home from first base with the run that made it 6-2.
“I’d been getting a lot of breaking balls, but I finally got a fastball I could drive,” said Lanier, who transferred to North Rowan from CCC rival West Davidson. Lanier said he’s been with the Cavaliers since March 2. He batted eighth on Wednesday, but he probably won’t bat eighth for long.
“Holden’s been struggling a little bit, but that was a huge hit for him and for us,” Rimer said.
Harrison set down the Eagles 1-2-3 in the sixth, and then North added insurance when White’s hit-and-run single scored the run that made it 7-2.
Harrison, who was getting ahead of hitters with strike-one breaking balls, allowed only a harmless single in the seventh. He retired seven of the last eight batters he faced.
“Gonzalez battled through those early innings until he found the strike zone, and Harrison had his good off-speed stuff,” said Pritchard, North’s catcher. “We’d looked at Uwharrie’s record. We knew they were undefeated, and we knew it would be a good win for us to get.”
NOTES: Three Cavaliers were hit by pitches. Things got quite heated after Gonzalez was plunked in the sixth. The plate umpire warned both teams. … North visits South Stanly on Friday and goes to Uwharrie Charter on Saturday. … Pritchard had two of North’s seven hits. … North and Uwharrie will be 1A conference foes, starting with the 2017-18 school year.
Uwharrie Charter 000 200 0 — 2 3 2
North Rowan 000 061 x — 7 7 1
W — Harrison (1-0). L — Weary.