03/20/05 — Prep baseball -- Princeton blanks Gators

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Prep baseball -- Princeton blanks Gators

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on March 20, 2005 2:10 AM

PRINCETON -- The depth in Princeton's batting order, top-to-bottom, was on display on Friday afternoon at home against Spring Creek.

The Gators successfully held third-hitter Dustin Myers and Brandon Pate, in the fifth spot, hitless, but Princeton stepped up through the rest of the order and got a stout pitching effort from Josh Thompson in a 8-0 win in Class 1-A Carolina Conference play.

All eight of the Bulldogs' runs came across in the first three innings as Colin Parker, Daniel Gerrell, Thomas Turnage and Thompson knocked in runs. Brooks Moore added two hits and scored twice, including Princeton's last run in a four-run third that pushed the score to its final margin.

"We were swinging the bat. Three and five go hitless and to still put up eight runs against Spring Creek ... we are very pleased with that," Princeton coach Bruce Proctor said.

Princeton, who returns all nine starters from last year's Class 1-A N.C. High School Athletic Association East Regional championship team, improved to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the Carolina Conference.

Meanwhile, Thompson (1-1) consistently stayed ahead in the count and made quick work of Spring Creek (2-4, 1-1 Carolina). The right-hander allowed only two hits with two hit batsmen in six innings of work with seven strikeouts, running into serious trouble only once in the top of the sixth.

The Gators' Devin Graves, who picked up the loss on the mound, got a hit in the bottom of the first. From there, Thompson sat down eight in a row and 13 of his next 14 batters -- getting errorless defensive play behind him.

In the sixth, Josh Gammon reached on a hit-by-pitch, before a single to right by Jed Potter moved Gammon to third as Potter raced to second on the throw. Thompson then picked up a strikeout and induced a ground out to escape the sixth.

Parker, a left-handed sophomore, came on in the seventh, striking out the side and yielding one hit. Combined, Thompson and Parker struck out 10.

"The defense makes the pitching so much better. The pitchers are comfortable and know they don't have to strike people out," Proctor said. "We love that we have the ability to roll three people out there that can throw strikes."

Offensively, Princeton took advantage of some defensive breakdowns by the Gators to go along with its balanced, timely hitting. Spring Creek made four errors, had three passed balls and got pegged for two balks -- including one that allowed Turnage to score in the bottom of the third.

"We aren't doing the little things. The biggest thing now, is I've got to get some of my upper classmen stepping up," Spring Creek coach Roger May said.

Bren Hall scored the Bulldogs' first run in the first, scoring from third on a two-out single to center by Gerrell. After courtesy runner Robert Gourley sprinted to score his team's second run on a double-steal in the second, Parker contributed another two-out hit, bringing home Moore and Jared McLamb.

"Those two-out and two-strike hits, I think that's confidence. I would like to think it's that maturity," Proctor said.

Graves (1-2) started and pitched 21/3 inning, before being chased out of the game after back-to-back RBI singles by Thompson and Turnage. Ray Grady yielded one unearned run and balked in an inherited base runner in the third, but tossed a scoreless fourth. Timothy Rogers kept Princeton off of the scoreboard in the final two innings.

May hopes his team, which graduated seven players from last year's conference championship team, will continue to improve.

"We're going to try to get better every time we come out. We've got a lot of work ahead us," he said.

Princeton returns to action on Tuesday at North Duplin, while Spring Creek travels to Rosewood.