04/09/10 — Princeton claws past county rival North Johnston

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Princeton claws past county rival North Johnston

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 9, 2010 1:47 PM

PRINCETON -- Papa Proctor would have been proud.

On a night when emotions flowed freely and bang-bang plays further boosted an already-intense rivalry, Princeton recorded a gutsy come-from-behind victory over North Johnston.

Tyler Daniels stroked his first varsity career homer run and the Dogs triumphed 10-8 on a blustery Thursday evening during opening-day action in the 2010 Deacon Jones Invitational. Princeton (3-10 overall) faces Spring Creek in the title contest at 7 p.m. today.

North Johnston (8-4) meets Rosewood in the consolation game.

Earlier this week, the father of Princeton head coach Bruce Proctor passed away. Mired in an uncharacteristic slump and carrying heavy hearts for their coach, the Dogs seemed destined for another loss as the Panthers caught numerous breaks during early-inning play.

Errors, wild pitches, a passed ball and a hit batsman propelled North Johnston to a 4-0 lead after 21/2 innings. Meanwhile, Princeton had two tough breaks at the plate that led to one Panther run and cost the Dogs their initial run of the game.

"We played with a lot of intensity and it was emotional for us tonight," said Princeton assistant coach Justin Willoughby. "We've been struggling defensively all year long and they put the ball in play, and tip your hat to those guys. But I felt like when it was time to make plays, our guys stepped up and made the play."

Princeton certainly did during its fourth at-bat.

Sean Carpenter lofted a fly ball to right field that drifted toward the foul pole as the Panthers' Kody Barbour tracked it down. The ball bounced out of Barbour's glove and the miscue proved crucial.

Carpenter eventually stole home and ignited a six-run uprising. Princeton capitalized on three wild pitches, an error, two walks and Dylan Myers' RBI double into left center field.

The Dogs led 7-4.

"I've seen a lot of crazy stuff this year," said Willoughby. "Luckily for us, it was us who had that crazy inning and not another team because we've been giving up those big innings after having crazy things happen to us.

"Luck jumped on our side a little bit."

Daniels extended Princeton's lead to 9-4 with a two-run homer in the sixth. A third-strike wild pitch plated the Dogs' final run and gave hurler Austin Hinton a large lead to work with in the dusty conditions.

Hinton, who threw 113 pitches, recorded the first out and then gave up a single and walk. The Panthers closed within 10-8 against right-handed reliever Patrick Jacobs, who struck out Barbour looking to end the game.

"Austin has done his work to be prepared for a situation like this and he did a good job," said Willoughby. "He struggled a little bit early, lost his composure and rushed his delivery a little bit. But he gathered himself back up, made pitches when he needed to and we made plays when we needed to."