04/09/08 — Eagles soar ahead early, weather rally

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Eagles soar ahead early, weather rally

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on April 9, 2008 3:39 PM

Never take a lead for granted.

Rosewood nearly learned that lesson Tuesday evening.

The Eagles capitalized on early defensive miscues by Spring Creek and raced to a six-run lead through four innings. However, the Gators climbed to within a single run before Rosewood escaped 7-6 in the Class 1-A Carolina Conference contest.

"Our guys held their feet to the fire and when they needed to make a play, they came through," said Eagles head coach Josh Smith. "You have to give Spring Creek a lot of credit. They got down six runs and they never gave in. They battled all the way."

Four errors helped the Eagles gain a 3-1 edge through three innings. They extended their advantage to 7-1 in the fourth inning, but didn't log another run the remainder of the game.

Holt Rains ripped a two-RBI double into the right center-field gap to start the fourth-inning uprising. He trotted home on Cody Richards' homer to center field.

But Spring Creek chipped away at the lead.

The Gators (5-10, 1-2 Carolina) plated two runs in the top of the fifth and three additional scores in the sixth. Alex Casey emerged the catalyst of the Spring Creek rally -- scoring on Paul Hayes' sacrifice fly in the fifth and mashing a two-run double in the sixth.

With two men on base and a parade of confident Gator hitters waiting to take their cuts, Smith turned to Richards in relief of Neal. Richards responded with an inning-ending fly ball. He retired the side in order in the seventh.

"When Cody comes in we don't expect to give up any lead," said Smith. "He did a great job tonight. When he came in I told the guys we would trade a run for an out."

Disappointed with the outcome, second-year Gators coach Heath Whitfield praised his team's late-inning charge.

"I think a lot of our trouble was mental," said Whitfield. "One guy gets a hit, and then another, and then we pick up a run and things seem to build on themselves."

"We hurt ourselves early with a few fielding problems, and by the time we started making things happen it was too little too late."

Rosewood (7-6, 2-1 CC) visits North Duplin on Friday, while Spring Creek entertains Eastern Wayne on Thursday.