03/23/06 — NL hands CBA first loss

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NL hands CBA first loss

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on March 23, 2006 1:47 PM

PIKEVILLE -- North Lenoir junior Stihl Sowers may not run into trouble on the mound much, but when he does, veteran Hawks' coach Jim Montague doesn't panic.

His confidence in his right-handed ace doesn't waver ... and maybe he's a little superstitious too.

Sowers ran into a jam in the bottom of the seventh, hitting Jackson Massey to start the inning with an 0-2 pitch. After Will Spence's sacrifice bunt, Sowers dropped a high pop up -- setting up first-and-second with one out.

Down 2-1 in the count, Sowers (3-0) got Bennett Jeffreys to bounce into an unassisted 6-3 double play to finish off North Lenoir's 17th straight win dating back to last season's state title run.

The Hawks, ranked No. 1 in the latest ImpactBaseball.com 2-A poll, take a 10-0 mark into today's game at East Duplin.

"I'm superstitious, so I didn't get up out of my chair when Stihl hit the guy," Montague said. "I just said, 'He's been there, let him settle down. He knows what he's got to do.'"

Aycock (8-1), ranked third in the 3-A poll, suffered its first loss of the season and opens its Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference slate today at Wilson Beddingfield.

"That's going to make us better and better. They are a very good program and quality team," Falcons' coach Charles Davis said of North Lenoir. "That's what you want from non-conference."

In a game where both teams stranded 10 base runners, North Lenoir took advantage of its final scoring chance with Falcons' junior Brandon Price, who came on in relief in the seventh inning, on the mound.

With two outs in the top of the seventh in a 1-1 nail-biter, Sutton scored from third on an infield error -- pushing the score to its final 2-1 margin. Sutton reached on an infield hit, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, then advanced to third on a wild pitch.

Sowers and the Golden Falcons' Garrett Davis both turned in solid efforts and each pitched out of tough jams.

After yielding a lead-off home run to right by Massey on his second pitch, Sowers didn't give up another run. The righty pitched around four North Lenoir errors and got out of a self-induced jam in the second as the Falcons' Joseph Toler, Thomas Pilkington and Evan Medford, who reached on a bunt single, posted three straight hits to start the inning.

With the bases loaded, Sowers made a tough play on a come-backer off the bat of Massey, then started a 1-2-3 double-play for the first two outs. With runners on second and third, he got Will Spence to pop to third to end the threat.

By game's end, Aycock left 10 on base, including six in scoring position.

"We just didn't get the hit when we needed it today," Charles Davis said. "We scored a run on our first hit of the game, then we didn't score the rest of the game. Sowers had a lot to do with that, but you've got to step up and get the big hit."

Garrett Davis was equally tough. He didn't allow a hit until Tyler Smith's double to right center to start the fifth, which resulted in North Lenoir's first run when Sutton singled home Smith to make it 1-1.

In the second and third innings combined, Davis yielded four base runners -- three reached on errors and Davis walked one. Much like Sowers, he was able to work out of the jams and added a pair of 1-2-3 innings in the first and fourth.

Davis got key help from his defense in the sixth when Jeffreys, the catcher, fielded a bunt, then tossed to the third baseman, Pilkington, to get a force out for the second out. Pilkington and shortstop Will Spence also had key defensive plays in the inning.

Davis finished with three strikeouts against two walks, while Sowers fanned four and had one walk.

After Davis had thrown 84 pitches in six innings, coach Davis brought in Price out of the bullpen. Saddled with a hard-luck loss, Price (2-1) was effective, yielding only the infield single to Sutton, who eventually came around to score on an unearned run after Aycock's fourth error.

"It was two good pitching performances by both teams. There were mistakes by both teams," Montague said. "I think it was a game both teams needed. The shoe could have very well been on the other foot."

The Falcons and Hawks meet again on March 22 in LaGrange.

North Lenoir 000 010 1 -- 2 5 4

C.B. Aycock 100 000 0 -- 1 7 4

Leading hitters -- North Lenoir -- Brandon Sutton 2-4, RBI; Tyler Smith 1-3, 2B. C.B. Aycock -- Jackson Massey 1-3, HR, RBI. Thomas Pilkington 2-3.


North Lenoir (10-0)

S. Sowers (W, 3-0) 7 7 1 1 1 4

C.B. Aycock (8-1)

G. Davis 6 4 1 1 2 3

B. Price (L, 2-1) 1 1 1 0 1 0