05/10/10 — Faith Christian baseball

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Faith Christian baseball

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 10, 2010 1:59 PM

CRAMERTON -- The third time wasn't the charm.

Bethel Christian Academy erupted for nine runs during the middle innings, and captured a 10-5 victory over Faith Christian in the N.C. Christian Schools Athletic Association Class 2-A baseball championship game Saturday afternoon.

The Trojans (12-8 overall) avenged two regular-season losses to the Conquerors, and claimed their second state crown in the past three years.

"I liked the fact that I already knew them, and that we could hit their best pitcher because we had done it before," said third-year Faith Christian head coach Justin Smith. "There was a part of me that wanted to play them again, but there was a part of me that knew it's hard to beat a team three times."

Faith Christian (13-1) grabbed a three-run lead after two innings.

The teams endured a 30-minute delay to replace home plate, which came out of the ground at the end of the second inning. Smith felt the suspension of play disrupted his team's momentum, and Matt Lambert's rhythm on the mound.

Once play resumed, Bethel tagged Lambert for six runs on two hits, three walks, a hit batsman and an error. The Trojans led 6-4.

"I know the delay didn't help any," said Smith. "Instead of sitting out on the field, I probably should have sent them back to the dugout. From then on, mentally they weren't there.

"It just fell apart. It wasn't just pitching and errors. We had at least three base-running mistakes that hurt."

Bethel roughed up reliever Nick Gurley for three earned runs in the final three innings. Gurley collected five strikeouts.

The Trojans' Matt Jones tossed a complete-game five-hitter, struck out seven and allowed four earned runs. He also batted 3-for-3 at the plate and scored four runs. Joseph Jarman, Jacob Potter, Josh McKeel and Alex Hardison each went 2-for-4.

Faith Christian concluded the season 13-1 overall. It was the Conquerors' first final four appearance since winning the state 2-A championship in 2003.

"Bethel had been here a couple of times before and knew what it takes to win," said Smith.

The Conquerors, who were realigned into the Piedmont Region for baseball, advanced to the title contest with a 5-1 victory over New Manna Christian of Asheville. Gurley threw a complete-game, one-hitter and logged five strikeouts.

A senior, Gurley swatted a sixth-inning home run and earned all-state accolades. Chris Powell provided two hits, including a triple and an RBI. Lambert, Brandon Jones (RBI), Wes Caudle (RBI) contributed one hit apiece.

Lambert earned first-team, all-Piedmont Region honors. Sophomores Michael Clarke and Silas Denlinger were named to the all-Piedmont Region second team.

Smith will lose just three seniors -- Gurley, Powell and Gabriel Kennedy.

"After last year, they got really hungry to make it all the way," said Smith, who has a career record of 28-11. "We had a goal of winning it all. We knew we were capable. We were just going to shoot for it and that was the goal from our very first practice.

"They just really gelled as a team. I've seen them become leaders and every guy played an important role on the team. It seemed like we had almost an all-star team because they played as a unit, worked hard together and wanted it together. The hardest part was losing the last game of the season."