Rosewood earns share of second straight league title
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on April 30, 2010 1:46 PM
SEVEN SPRINGS -- Rosewood has a little breathing room.
The Eagles scored five first-inning runs and Matt Neal pitched a complete game in a 7-4 win over Carolina 1-A Conference rival Spring Creek on Thursday evening.
Rosewood (12-6 overall, 8-0 CC) clinched a share of the regular-season championship and leads the Gators by two games with one week left to play.
"It feels good, but you can't breathe yet," said Eagles head coach Jason King. "We've got two tough ones next week with North Duplin and Princeton. In the Carolina 1-A Conference anything can happen. We've just got to focus on our goal, and go ahead and finish it next week."
The highly-anticipated pitcher's duel between Neal and Spring Creek's Duane Gurganus never materialized. Much like his start at Ayden-Grifton on Tuesday night, Gurganus struggled with location and was knocked around early.
Cody Harris' two-run double and Will Beasley's three-run home run gave Rosewood a 5-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
The Gators got a run back on Eric Evans' sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first inning.
Beasley's two-run double in the top of the third put the Eagles in front 7-1 and chased Gurganus from the ballgame. The sophomore right-hander surrendered seven earned runs on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings.
"We can't really put our finger on it right now with Duane," said Spring Creek head coach Heath Whitfield. "He wasn't real sharp. I just don't think he's locating right now. That's been his strength.
"He's been able to hit his spots and the last couple of outings he hasn't been able to do that. We've got to get that corrected real quick."
Evans pitched 42/3 innings of one-hit shutout relief with five strikeouts and no walks to keep the Gators in the ballgame.
Gurganus' RBI double and Evans' two-run single in the home half of the third inning cut the lead to 7-4.
Spring Creek (11-8, 6-2) had runners on first and second base, and the tying run at the plate in the fifth inning. However, Neal got Ricky Brayboy to fly out to the end the threat. The Gators left eight runners on base, including five in the last three innings.
"We just couldn't string together enough hits," said Whitfield. "We had some pretty good swings and we hit some balls hard. We just couldn't string enough together to get a rally going. Neal buckled down when he had to."
With his pitch count up over 100, Neal found himself in trouble once more in the bottom of the seventh. Brayboy again represented the tying run as the Gators had runners on first and second with two outs.
Neal struck out Brayboy looking to end the ballgame. The senior allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits with three walks and three strikeouts on 120 pitches. Neal held Spring Creek scoreless over the final four innings.
"Matt is a competitor at the highest level," said King. "He loves to compete. He's just got that chip on his shoulder and that's part of what makes him a good player. I've got confidence that he's going to get the job done and he's got confidence in himself.
"That's why I can leave him out there with a high pitch count knowing that he's going to battle. We have a lot of faith in him."
Rosewood plays host to North Duplin on Tuesday, while Spring Creek welcomes Goldsboro.