Prep Baseball: Wonders beat Salisbury

Published 10:34 pm Thursday, March 31, 2016

By Mike London

KANNAPOLIS — Some saves are easy. Pitch the final inning with a three-run lead, and it’s a save.
But A.L. Brown junior Matt Baucom earned a save the hard way on Thursday. Baucom faced seven batters and struck out five, including the last one in the Wonders’ 4-3 victory against Salisbury at Intimidators Stadium.
“It was a disappointing loss,” Salisbury coach Mike Herndon said. “The reality is we played better baseball when we got beat, 22-4, on Wednesday. We didn’t execute at the plate or in the field. We had errors. We made mental mistakes.”
Jacob Tuttle, brother of former Catawba star John Tuttle, picked up the win in consolation bracket action in the F&M Bank High School Classic. But it didn’t look good for Tuttle when he exited in the sixth with two men on, no outs, and his team clinging desperately to a 4-3 lead.
Will Steinman’s single, Alex Yang’s booming double to the left-field fence, and Bo Rusher’s crisp RBI-single knocked out Tuttle and brought Baucom in from the bullpen.
Baucom didn’t start off in ideal fashion, hitting Harrison Smith with a pitch to fill the bases. But he mowed down the next three hitters without allowing contact. That was the key to the ballgame.
“Mostly fastballs,” Baucom said. “But also a few curveballs. I tried to mix it up.”
The Hornets went down meekly in the seventh, with Baucom handling a grounder back to the box between two strikeouts.
“Baucom has been that guy for us out of the bullpen all season,” A.L. Brown coach Empsy Thompson said. “He came up big when we needed it.”
It was a frustrating loss for Herndon, who watched his team jump ahead, 2-0, in the first inning. Those runs were keyed by Smith’s opposite-field double just inside the first-base bag.
But then Tuttle settled in and dueled Steinman, Salisbury’s senior right-hander.
“Both teams came in 5-5, and it sure looked like it,” Thompson said. “Evenly matched teams.”
Cordarius Butler tripled to deep left for the Wonders in the second. He scored on Tuttle’s bounce out to cut the Wonders’ deficit to 2-1.
A.L. Brown (6-5) was the home team. The bottom of the fourth proved decisive. The Wonders resorted to little ball — three straight bunts — and executed. The Hornets didn’t get an out on any of those bunts. Damon Johnson scored on a throwing error to tie the game, and the Wonders had runners at second and third with none out.
Steinman recorded back-to-back strikeouts and was on the verge of escaping the inning with the score tied, but that’s when Kaseim Black smacked a two-run single into left field.
“We put some pressure on their defense with the bunts,” Black said. “He wasn’t throwing a lot of off-speed pitches, so I went up there hunting a fastball to hit. I got one on the first pitch and took my best hack at it.”
Black, a football defensive back, had three singles and was the offensive star for the Wonders.
Herndon held an extended post-game conversation with his team, which sat quietly in the left-field bleachers.
“That talk was about getting tougher mentally,” Herndon said. “It’s easy to do the right things when it’s all going your way. But true character comes out when things get tough. I believe in these guys and I want them to believe in themselves.”
NOTES: Salisbury is scheduled to play Carson for seventh place today at 11 a.m. and A.L. Brown plays Robinson for fifth at 1:30 p.m. Both games are at A.L. Brown.

Salisbury 200 001 0 — 3 6 4
A.L. Brown 010 300 0 — 4 8 0
W — Jacob Tuttle (3-0). L — Will Steinman (2-1). S — Matt Baucom
Leading hitters — Salisbury: Alex Yang 2-for-3, Will Steinman 2-for-4. A.L. Brown: Kaseim Black 3-for-3, 2 RBIs.