03/14/08 — Wayne Christian knocks off Wayne Country Day

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Wayne Christian knocks off Wayne Country Day

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on March 14, 2008 2:46 PM

Wayne Christian jumped out to a four-run lead and never looked back in its 11-0 victory over defending independent schools 1-A state champion Wayne Country Day.

The first inning proved especially crucial.

After J.J. Jefferson singled and Michael Johnson reached on an error, a bizarre play turned the tide in the Eagles' favor. Tyler Thomas singled to center and Johnson raced toward the plate.

Wayne Country Day catcher Ryan Ford moved up the third-base line to field the throw and made contact with Johnson, who tripped toward the plate. The ball skipped to the backstop and the umpire immediately called "dead ball."

Ford was disqualified for an "intentional trip."

A long discussion ensued and Chargers coach Michael Taylor restructured his lineup. Cameron Ford moved behind the plate.

"We have such a young team, and when we had to shake things up in the first inning it was tough," said Taylor. "My backup catcher was pitching, so we went with a guy that had not been back there in quite a while."

Wayne Christian never wavered.

The Eagles picked up a fourth-inning run and polished off the Chargers in the fifth. Johnson provided his third hit of the game and drove in a run. Donte Arthur collected an RBI double and Kyle Harrell ended the game with a three-run, walk-off homer.

"Kyle has really worked on his swing in the offseason, and it isn't all that surprising that he would deliver like that," Wayne Christian coach Tim Brannan said. "He hit a game-ending home run for us last year against Fayetteville Christian, so we have seen his power before.

"I thought Michael Johnson had a great game today, especially at the plate. I don't know if anyone out here has a better looking swing than him right now."

Jefferson worked out of trouble throughout the afternoon and earned the mound win. He permitted three hits and retired three Chargers on strikeouts.

"J.J. has been working a lot on his pitching, and tonight he really battled for us," said Brannan. "When his curve ball is on, he has very good stuff. This afternoon he had all of his pitches working in the zone."

While Taylor didn't expect a 41/2-inning outcome, he realized the Chargers' strength of schedule -- especially non-conference -- would be difficult.

"We knew coming in what kind of team Wayne Christian had, and if you look at the non-conference schedule we have, we try to play the best," said Taylor. "This is not the way we wanted to open the year, but with so many new faces and guys playing in new positions, we know now where we have to improve."

WCDS (0-1 overall) entertains Waccamaw Academy in a rematch of last year's N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association semifinal. Wayne Christian (2-0) faces Fayetteville Christian next Tuesday.