04/09/09 — Gators can't convert with runners aboard

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Gators can't convert with runners aboard

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on April 9, 2009 1:46 PM

SEVEN SPRINGS -- Familiar problems haunted Spring Creek throughout its 9-1 loss to Carolina 1-A Conference front-runner North Johnston on Wednesday night.

The Gators struck out too many times and couldn't convert with runners in scoring position.

"That's kind of become a theme since we entered conference play," said Spring Creek head coach Heath Whitfield. "We have been getting some guys on base, but we have not been bringing them around with a key hit."

The Panthers jumped on top in the first inning.

Brandon Crocker drew a lead-off walk and scored on a Chris Johnson double. Charles Pipken plated a run with a second double and later scored on a Gator error.

Trailing 3-0, Spring Creek went to work at the plate in the bottom of the first.

Steven Best drew a two-out walk. Eric Evans followed with a single and Lucas Potter plated Best with an RBI base hit.

North Johnston added three additional runs one at-bat later.

Will Faircloth delivered a single and immediately stole second. Johnson singled and Pipken came through with a sacrifice fly. Kyle Sanders' home run capped the outburst.

"We are not a team that is very good when we have to play from behind," said Whitfield. "We did the same thing (Tuesday) night against Rosewood and that's not when we are at our best."

The Panthers sealed the game with a three-run fourth inning.

Gators' senior Paul Hayes took over on the pitcher's mound with his team trailing 9-1 and tossed 31/3 scoreless innings. The strong outing prevented North Johnston from inducing the mercy rule.

Spring Creek's offense could not muster a comeback attempt.

"We are going to take some time off for Easter and get away from the field for a while," said Whitfield. "We started out a little bit ahead of schedule as far as where I thought this team would be on the field. It seems like we have leveled off some recently and hopefully a break will help us get our focus back."

Spring Creek (7-6 overall, 1-3 CC) faces league rival Princeton in the opening round of the annual Deacon Jones Invitational on April 16.