04/20/05 — Princeton ace trumps Ayden-Grifton in key matchup

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Princeton ace trumps Ayden-Grifton in key matchup

By Neil Fuller
Published in Sports on April 20, 2005 1:58 PM

PRINCETON -- One fact has become clear in the race for the Class 1-A Carolina Conference's two available N.C. High School Athletic Association playoff berths.

Josh Thompson has a rubber arm.

Thompson threw a two-hitter with 14 strikeouts -- the senior right-hander's fifth consecutive complete-game effort -- and conference front-runner Princeton played errorless defense in defeating visiting Ayden-Grifton 7-1 on Tuesday night.

And the staff ace is feeling no fatigue.

"I feel good," Thompson said. "I'm comfortable with my fielders. I know they're going to make the plays behind me. By the time the seventh inning roles around, I'm good because I know the game is coming to an end."

Thompson (6-1) struck out five of the final six batters he faced -- and faced the minimum over the final five innings -- to keep the second-place Chargers (12-6 overall, 4-3 Carolina 1-A) at a safe distance in the conference standings.

Princeton coach Bruce Proctor is hoping Thompson's late-game arm strength becomes a factor in postseason play -- especially if the Bulldogs (13-3, 6-1) earn a return trip to the Class 1-A finals.

"I'd put Josh up against any other pitcher," Proctor said. "I like him. I like our chances with him out there on the mound."

Thompson drove in two runs, and senior catcher Dustin Myers hit an RBI triple to highlight a three-run first inning as Princeton collected all the necessary offensive support early on.

Ayden-Grifton committed a season-high seven errors -- helping to negate a combined five-hitter by starting pitcher Hunter Carnes and reliever Pameer Angar.

"When a guy strikes out 14 and you can't put the ball in play, you don't have a chance," Chargers interim coach Cotton Nicholson said. "We've struggled all year with our hitting. We're just having trouble putting the ball in play.

"(Thompson) is just a great pitcher. He moves the ball around, he changes speeds and keeps batters off-stride."

Three infield errors and an RBI sacrifice fly by Patrick Gatewood during the fifth inning only added on to the misery for Ayden-Grifton.

It was all light years away from the top of the first -- where Richie Turner's RBI single provided the Chargers a brief 1-0 lead.

But by the end, there was no doubt about the outcome. Not with Thompson in command.

"Each game and each win is important," Proctor said. "That's especially true with Ayden-Grifton usually at the top of our conference. This was just a big win. It was big in defining a little bit of character for our team, too."

Thompson's arm is one lively character.

Just ask his last five opponents.

Notes: Princeton is ranked No. 9 in the latest NCPreps.com poll. ... Princeton won at Ayden-Grifton on March 15 in the first half of a regular-season sweep for the Bulldogs. ... Princeton RF Colin Parker was 1-for-3 and scored two runs. ... Thompson issued one walk. ... Ayden-Grifton DH Matt Brown was 1-for-2 and hit into a fifth-inning double play. ... Carnes struck out five. ... Princeton travels to Carolina 1-A foe Spring Creek on Friday.