05/07/06 — Faith Christian baseball advances in NCCSA 2-A play

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Faith Christian baseball advances in NCCSA 2-A play

By Steve Roush
Published in Sports on May 7, 2006 2:10 AM

Faith Christian advanced to the N.C. Christian School Association Class 2-A state quarterfinals Friday afternoon with a convincing 10-5 win over visiting Falls Road of Rocky Mount.

Four different Conquerors drove in runs and four Faith Christian hurlers shared the pitching duties as the home team improved to 10-5 overall this season.

The Crusaders finished the season at 4-7.

Faith, a two seed out of the Coastal Region, now moves on to face No. 1-seeded Woodland Christian in Winston-Salem on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the quarterfinals. The semifinals will be played on Friday, with the championship game scheduled for Saturday.

"Things are going to get tougher the rest of the way out, but I think we actually play better when we play better teams," said Faith coach Steve Brannan, whose Conquerors won the state title in 2003 and finished as runners-up the year before. "We expect to see a good team with good pitching on Tuesday."

Faith should have all its hurlers ready, too.

Josh Brannan, T.J. Sasser and Jay Hinson all threw two innings apiece in Friday's contest, with Allen Ray Darby pitching the final inning for Faith. None of the pitchers gave up an earned run, and the foursome combined to strike out 11 and scattered just three hits.

"We threw everybody today so we'd be ready for Tuesday," coach Brannan said. "The best thing about our team as we go through the state tournament is our pitching depth -- we have four pitchers ready to go. I'm also confident with our offense, and our defense is usually pretty sound.

"I think things are looking good for us come next Tuesday."

Falls Road jumped out to a quick lead in the top of the first as a pair of Faith Christian errors allowed the visitors to grab a 3-0 advantage.

The Conquerors, however, took the lead for good as the home team scored two runs in the first and three more in the second. Faith later put the game out of reach by tallying three more runs in the fourth and two in the fifth.

That was more than enough support for the Faith pitchers as Josh Brannan -- normally the team's closer -- picked up his third victory in four decisions. He struck out three, walked one and gave up three hits and two unearned runs. Sasser struck out five and allowed one walk and no hits, Hinson walked one, fanned two and allowed two unearned runs, and Darby struck out one in a perfect inning of work.

At the plate, Sasser went 2-for-2 with a walk and three runs, Darby was a perfect 3-for-3 with an RBI; Rusty Winders was 1-for-3, scored three times and drove in a run; Josh Brannan drove in a team-high two runs and was 2-for-4; John Spencer went 1-for-2 with a double and an RBI; Nick Gurley was 1-for-1 and Jeremy Sandlin drove in one run.

Coach Sasser believes his Conquerors can contend for a state title this season, and with just one senior -- Spencer -- Faith Christian may be among the top teams for years.

"We've got things set up for the future," coach Brannan said.

Falls Road 300 020 0 -- 5 3 5

Faith 230 320 x -- 10 10 3

Leading hitters -- Falls Road -- Logan Warren 1B, RBI; Tim Winstead 1B; Ryan Sanderford 1B; Sam Bland RBI. Faith Christian -- T.J. Sasser 2-2, walk, 3 runs; Rusty Winders 1-3, HBP, 3 runs, RBI; Josh Brannan 2-4, 2 runs, 2 RBIs; Allen Ray Darby 3-3, HBP, run, RBI; John Spencer 1-2, 2B, walk, RBI; Nick Gurley 1-1; Jeremy Sandlin RBI; John Curt Cozine 2 walks, run; Jay Hinson walk.


Falls Road (4-7)

T. Winstead (L) 6 10 10 8 5 6

Faith Christian (10-5)

J. Brannan (W, 3-1) 2 3 3 0 1 3

T.J. Sasser 2 0 0 0 1 5

J. Hinson 2 0 2 0 1 2

A. Darby 1 0 0 0 0 1