By Steve Roush
Published in Sports on April 13, 2006 2:06 PM
DUDLEY -- "Frustrating."
That's all David Combs could say about Southern Wayne's 14-10 non-conference loss to West Johnston in 10 innings on Wednesday.
After a rocky start both offensively and in right field early in the game, Combs jogged to the mound to take over the reigns of an 8-8 stalemate with loaded bases and one out in the top of the sixth. He was relieving Southern Wayne ace Ashton Langston, who allowed four runs in just 11/3 innings of relief work.
Combs proceeded to get two quick outs (allowing one of Langston's runners to score on a sacrifice fly) that began a streak of nine straight outs that stretched into the top of the ninth. Then, with his team down by one, Combs drove in Austin Hood with a double that tied the game at nine in the bottom of the sixth.
Using a mix of fastballs and hard curveballs, Combs pitched 32/3 innings -- into the top of the 10th -- while West Johnston didn't hit a ball hard. In fact, they had hardly hit the ball at all -- Combs set four Wildcats down on strikes.
But a ball off the bat of speedy leadoff hitter Rolondo Bonner dropped behind Combs and in front of shortstop Austin Hood, and sparked a five-run explosion that the Saints couldn't match in the bottom of the frame. With the score already 11-9, West Johnston shortstop Kris Richards -- who grounded out to third in his previous at-bat against Combs -- drilled a three-run double into right-center to lock up the game.
Despite allowing just one well-hit ball in 42/3 innings, Combs had given up five runs.
"That's baseball," he said with a shrug after the loss had set in.
The good news for the Saints is that it wasn't a conference game, and while their overall record is now just one game over .500 (8-7), they remain in the hunt for the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference title at 5-1.
Southern Wayne coach Trae McKee admitted that his team may have been a little flat after its 6-1 win over rival Eastern Wayne on Tuesday.
"I don't know if it's a hangover," McKee said. "It takes a lot out of you emotionally when you play a conference game and then you come back to a non-conference game ... we didn't have the intensity we had (Tuesday)."
McKee was upset his team couldn't drive in runners from second with two outs in both the seventh and eighth.
"We had plenty of opportunities, especially late, to win this game," he said "We got away from what we do best, and that's executing and moving runners."
At the same time, the Saints were on the receiving end of a dominant relief effort from West Johnston junior Grayson Ferrell, who gave up just three runs in 62/3 innings. Entering the game for starter Devin Miller in the bottom of the fourth, he allowed a two-run single to Hood (scoring runners Miller had allowed on base) but gave up just one run in the fifth, sixth and tenth to claim the win for the Wildcats (12-3).
Accustomed to pitching just one or two innings per appearance, Ferrell performed admirably.
"I had a lot of adrenaline," he said. "I think I got stronger as the innings progressed. I was just excited and a little bit surprised (to pitch so well)."
West Johnston coach Mike Jacobs has seen his team steadily improve during the four years his program has existed.
"There's a good tradition here, and we're trying to build a tradition," Jacobs said. "And as you can tell from the battle here tonight, both teams never gave up...it was a lot of excitement, just like a big boxing match."
While McKee wouldn't use it as an excuse, it's worth noting that three Southern Wayne players were out of the country on a spring break trip, leaving the Saints with just three subs in a game that featured numerous pitching and positional changes.
After a couple of days off for Easter, Southern Wayne returns to action on Monday at 10 a.m. in a tournament hosted by West Brunswick High School.
Wildcats 010 431 000 5 - 14 11 1
Saints 003 411 000 1 - 10 16 2
Leading hitters -- West Johnston -- Kris Richards 4-6, 2B, 3RBI; 3 runs; Matt Spivey 1-2, 2 BB, HBP, 2B, RBI 2 runs; Tim Cowell 1-4, 3B, 3 RBI. Southern Wayne -- Dave Overman 2-5, HR, 3B, 2 runs, RBI; Austin Hood 5-6, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 runs, 3 SB.
IP H R ER BB SO
D. Miller 31/3 9 7 5 0 2
G. Ferrell 62/3 7 3 3 4 5
S. Grice 3+ 2 4 4 4 4
M. Holland 1 3 1 1 1 0
A. Langston 11/3 5 4 4 1 0
D. Combs 42/3 2 5 4 3 6
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