Prep Baseball: Dragons outlast North Rowan, 3-1
By Mike London
SPENCER — West Davidson center fielder Austin Ferguson made a diving catch to end Tuesday’s Central Carolina Conference game at North Rowan.
At least, the umpires believed Ferguson caught it. It’s more likely Ferguson trapped Joe Harrison’s wicked line drive with the tying runs on base to conclude a tense, 3-1 victory by the league-leading visitors.
Harrison, who also pitched six strong innings, could’ve griped and fumed about the way it ended, but the Belmont Abbey commit showed some class.
“I really don’t know if the guy caught it or not,” Harrison said. “But either way, he made a great play. Have to give him credit.”
For the first six innings, Harrison and West Davidson right-hander Preston Dalton made opposing hitters look silly. Harrison, who struck out eight and allowed four hits, got a lot of strikeouts with curveballs but also punched out some hitters, who were looking for curves, with a respectable heater.
West Davidson (10-4, 3-0 CCC) scored in the first inning with three straight two-out singles. The third one was a rip to right by Dalton.
“All three hits were on fastballs,” Harrison said. “I got two outs quickly, but I guess I got complacent and didn’t finish the inning off. After the first inning, I did a better job of finishing.”
North (6-6, 1-1) didn’t stay down long. Leadoff man Henderson Lentz legged out an infield hit to the hole, and moved to third on a wild pitch and Harrison’s ground ball to the right side. Corbin Smith stroked a solid sac fly to center, and the Cavaliers were back even.
Then Harrison and Dalton settled in, and the 1-1 deadlock continued inning after inning. Harrison walked the first two batters in the third but got out of it. He allowed a walk and a bouncing double in the fourth but escaped again. By the fifth and sixth, Harrison was dealing.
But that’s when he reached the new per-game pitch count limit of 105.
“Joe was getting better and better,” North coach Tommy Small said. “No soreness at all, he wasn’t in any trouble at all. I’d much rather see a pitch-count rule that limits pitches per week than pitches per game, but Joe had to come out.”
North had chances to break through against Dalton, who issued lead-off walks in the second, third and fifth innings, but never could. The Cavaliers couldn’t get a hit, much less a clutch hit.
“In the fifth inning, I realized that North only had one hit,” West Davidson coach Jason Lemley said. “Dalton pitched a great game for us.”
North’s best chance was in the fifth when Mark Parra, one of the county’s fastest base runners, stole second and third after he walked. With the Green Dragons moving in at the corners, Brett Tucker bounced toward first, and West Davidson executed. The throw came home and Parra, who stopped halfway down the third-base line, was trapped in a rundown.
“We were running on contact,” Small said. “But Mark didn’t think he could make it and he kind of froze.”
As the Green Dragons came to bat in the seventh, they were looking at a new hurler — Lentz, a 6-foot-4 lefty.
“Harrison pitched his tail off for North, and he wasn’t losing any effectiveness,” Lemley said. “It was a shame he had to come out of the game. You’d like for kids to have a chance to finish. That’s why we wanted a 120-pitch count rule, not 105.”
The top of the seventh was wild. Lentz registered two quick outs and was one strike from being out of the inning, but a 3-2 pitch that could’ve been called a strike instead struck the batter.
“Henderson said he leaned into it, and I think you can trust Henderson,” Small said.
Then a bouncer skipped through North third baseman Smith, who had to go several steps to his left. After a first-and third steal that the Cavaliers conceded, two runners were in scoring position. Austin Gobble then whacked a hard ground ball that Smith went spinning to the ground to stop. His off-balance throw to first was high and wide and a pair of Green Dragons raced home for a 3-1 lead.
“Corbin made a really good stop,” Small said. “But he had more time than he realized. He rushed his throw.”
North went down swinging in the bottom of the seventh. A one-out HBP to pinch-hitter Javin Goodine and Lentz’s second hit — this one a clean smash through the right side — put two men on for Harrison. Harrison made sharp contact, but Ferguson charged in and dived, and the ballgame was over.
“West Davidson has a really good team,” Harrison said. “They were good last year, and they’ve got their guys back. I was proud that we fought down to the last out.”
W. Davidson 100 000 2 — 3 4 0
N. Rowan 100 000 0 — 1 2 2
W — Dalton. L — Lentz (0-1).
Leading hitters — North: Lentz 2-for-2, 2 walks.
wd 10-4 3-0