Beeker outduels Fisher as Knights top Salisbury, 3-1
Published 11:42 pm Thursday, April 18, 2019
By Mike Duprez
WELCOME — When two Division I-caliber left-handers hook up, runs figure to be at a premium.
They were here Thursday night and North Davidson was just a little bit better than Salisbury.
Merritt Beeker threw a two-hitter over six innings and Maddox Johnson smashed a solo home run as the Black Knights beat Salisbury, 3-1, to remain a game behind Ledford in the Central Carolina Conference.
Beeker, a sophomore, who has committed to East Carolina, was sharp after a pair of early walks. He quickly settled down after that, and finished with 10 strikeouts — his fastball at times overpowering. That was in contrast to Beeker’s win last week over Central Davidson, a start that left him less than satisfied.
“I felt like I was in the zone a lot more,” Beeker said. “I felt like I had more than one pitch working for me. It was a good night on the bump.”
Beeker left after the sixth due to his pitch count reaching 98. Jake Brown pitched a perfect seventh inning to earn the save.
“Merritt struggled early but he fought his way out of it,” said North Davidson coach Matt Griffin. “He got better as the game went on. I actually thought the sixth was his best inning. Jake Brown came in and he hasn’t thrown a lot of innings, but I thought he did a good job in the seventh.”
Salisbury’s Jack Fisher, a senior who has committed to UNC Wilmington, was sharp most of the time, and with good velocity. But he left a couple of pitches up and that proved to be enough for the Knights.
The Hornets had taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning when leadoff hitter Vance Honeycutt sliced a triple under right fielder Mason Everhart’s glove and scored on Fisher’s infield single.
North was quick to respond.
Johnson, who was selected to play in the East-West All-Star football game earlier in the day along with Blake Stephens, crushed an 0-2 pitch over the 14-foot high Black Monster in dead center field, leading off the bottom of the third to tie the game.
“He had me 0-2 and I got lucky with one,” Johnson said. “I got a pretty good swing on it and watched it go.”
Fisher then walked Jake Craver and Jackson McAllister delivered a sacrifice bunt. Wesley Stewart flied out, but Jackson Perrell blasted a double off the Black Monster and North had a 2-1 lead.
“I think he let the home run affect him with the next few batters instead of just flushing it,” said Salisbury coach Mike Herndon. “He made a mistake. A guy got a hold of it and it affected the rest of the inning.”
North scratched together a big insurance run off Fisher in the bottom of the fifth. Fisher struck out the first two batters but then hit Perrell on a 1-2 pitch. The speedy Perrell stole second and scored on Brown’s line drive single up the middle.
“We had Perrell on a 1-2 count, I believe, and he threw a breaking ball and hit him,” Herndon said. “He stole second, they grinded out a run. At that point we knew we needed to get to the top of our lineup for us to have a chance and we didn’t get back to the top of the lineup.”
Fisher, who struck out eight, came out after the fifth and Honeycutt pitched a scoreless sixth. All told, North got six hits — half of them by Everhart.
“We played good defense,” Griffin said. “We got some good swings off their D-1 lefty — Fisher. We did well offensively for the most part.”
North (15-5 overall, 14-2 CCC) plays Ledford next Wednesday at home and Friday at Gary Hinkle Field. The Black Knights need a sweep to win their second straight CCC championship.
Salisbury fell to 11-9 overall and 9-7 in the CCC.