Deacon Jones Invitational: Rosewood defends crown in 8-inning thriller
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 15, 2007 2:16 AM
PRINCETON -- No matter the sport, you can always expect archrivals Rosewood and Princeton to stage a classic battle that has more subplots than a soap opera.
Friday evening was no exception.
Stellar defensive plays, clutch hitting and gutsy efforts highlighted the championship game of the Deacon Jones Invitational contested before a standing-room-only and vocal crowd. When the dust finally settled from the sixth installment of the holiday tournament, the Eagles emerged victorious 7-6 -- in eight innings -- on the Bulldogs' diamond.
"Anytime Princeton and us get together, it's a dogfight," said Rosewood head coach Josh Smith. "They deserve it just as much as we do, honestly. To be able to fight back and do everything we had to do to get ahead, to get the victory, is something -- as a ball club -- we strive for every day."
Rosewood (11-3 overall) successfully defended its Invitational crown and snapped Princeton's eight-game win streak. The Bulldogs claimed the Deacon Jones title in 2005, one season after appearing in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A championship series.
"It hurts giving away this gold to that purple and gold, don't get me wrong," said Princeton head coach Bruce Proctor. "It hurts bad. They didn't quit and you have to give Rosewood a lot of credit.
"They fought back. It was a great ball game."
Princeton (12-5) seized the early momentum with a four-run outburst in the opening inning. Colin Parker broke the scoreless tie with an RBI bunt single and all-tournament selection Daniel Gerrell slugged a two-run home run -- his third of the season and the Dawgs' ninth overall.
Adam Nethercutt, who also made the all-tournament team, scored two outs later on Dustin Pate's two-strike single to left field. Jon Hartley's RBI single boosted Princeton's advantage to 5-0 after two innings.
Rosewood, meanwhile, couldn't manufacture any offense against the left-handed Parker. He retired six of the first seven batters he faced and didn't allow a hit until Garrett Howell cranked out a lead-off single in the third.
Howell was erased on a fielder's choice bunt and Parker recorded back-to-back outs to end the inning.
"We came out a little rusty and not on top of things," said Rosewood third baseman Robert Franks. "We never gave up; kept on believing. We know we are a good team and that no matter how much we get down, we can always come back.
"Once we got into the game, things started happening."
The Eagles touched Parker for four fourth-inning runs. Taylor Allen spoiled Parker's shutout bid with an RBI single. Cody Richards smacked a two-RBI triple into the right field gap, and scored on Goss Kendall's sacrifice fly in nearly the same spot.
Gerrell (3-for-4) collected his third RBI with a fourth-inning single. Rosewood right-hander Matt Neal, who no-hit North Duplin in his last outing, and Richards combined for five consecutive scoreless innings from that point.
Princeton pressured Neal and Richards, but stranded 10 runners with six in scoring position. The Eagle defense also picked off two runners. Proctor admitted the second pickoff, which occurred in the sixth inning, proved crucial.
Andrew Cobb got hung up between second and third on Adam Nethercutt's single to left field. Rosewood threw Cobb out at third and Nethercutt was left stranded.
"I was smart enough to know I should have sent Cobb (on Nethercutt's single), but I didn't," said Proctor. "I lost that ball game ... no excuses and put it on my fat shoulders."
The Bulldog defense picked off Franks, who walked, in the seventh inning. Neal drew a walk from right-handed reliever Ryan Daughtry and Proctor debated with pitching coach Justin Willoughby to pull Daughtry with David Smeltzer at the plate.
The two decided to stay with Daughtry and Proctor urged his senior not to let Smeltzer beat him. Smeltzer worked Daughtry to a hitter's count and pulled the trigger when he got a fastball on the outside corner. Smeltzer ripped a two-run blast, his second in tournament play, over the right field wall and tied the game at 6-6.
It was Smeltzer's fourth round-tripper of the season.
"I tried to pick up his arm angle on the curve ball because I don't see a lot of fastballs," said Smeltzer, who earned all-tournament and MVP honors. "I got in there, saw it and tried to take it to opposite field because we had runners in scoring position.
"I got lucky I guess."
Princeton right fielder Jared McLamb teased the crowd with a one-out double in the seventh, but was left stranded.
Richards started the Rosewood eighth with an infield single and moved into scoring position when the Dawgs misplayed a bunt. Daughtry notched back-to-back outs until Franks slapped the game-winning single into left field.
"I just had to hit the ball somewhere and try to make things happen," said Franks, who had two of Rosewood's nine hits.
Princeton loaded the bases in the eighth on a bunt fielder's choice and two walks. Richards induced a game-ending pop-up which Franks caught in foul territory near the Dawgs' dugout.
The final out touched off a wild celebration and left Princeton stunned.
"It's amazing how both ball clubs fought and did anything they could to try to win the ball game," said Smith.
The teams meet again Tuesday at Princeton.
Rosewood 000 400 21 -- 7 9 4
Princeton 401 100 00 -- 6 11 0
Leading hitters -- Rosewood -- Robert Franks 2-4, RBI; David Smeltzer 2-3, HR, 2 RBI; Taylor Allen 1-3, RBI; Cody Richards 2-4, 3B, 2 RBI; Goss Kendall 1-3, RBI. Princeton -- Colin Parker 1-4, RBI; Daniel Gerrell 3-4, HR, 3 RBI; Andrew Cobb 1-5, 2B; Dustin Pate 1-4, RBI; Jon Hartley 2-4, RBI; Jared McLamb 1-4, 2B.
LOB -- Rosewood 7, Princeton 13. SB -- Franks, Radford, Daughtry 2, Nethercutt. SF -- Kendall.
IP H R ER BB SO
Allen 6 9 6 3 3 3
Richards (W) 2 2 0 0 2 2
Parker 4 1/3 5 4 4 1 2
Daughtry (L) 3 2/3 4 3 2 3 4
WP -- Parker 2, Daughtry. HBP -- by Parker (Smeltzer), by Allen (Radford), by Allen (Parker).
T -- 2:28.
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