Focused Eagles ready for playoffs
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 11, 2011 1:46 PM
One two-day stretch undoubtedly turned Wayne Christian's fortunes around on the baseball diamond.
Lacking energy, focus and determination, the Eagles seemed destined to have their string of six consecutive postseason appearances vanish before a weekend tournament at Hobgood Academy.
The Eagles polished off an 11-inning win against the host Raiders beyond the witching hour, returned home and got a few winks before facing No. 1-ranked Faith Christian of Rocky Mount. Wayne Christian pulled off a 3-1 upset and the sky's been the limit since then.
"The Hobgood tournament was a turning point and we started believing we could win," said Wayne Christian senior Jordan Crouthamel. "Everybody is playing to their potential. We've become a lot more focused, we've hustled and we've turned out some wins."
Wayne Christian was an uncharacteristic 4-8 overall less than three weeks ago. Crouthamel and his teammates extended their win streak to six games Monday afternoon in dramatic fashion.
The Eagles' game-ending double play secured a 9-8 victory over two-time Carolina Christian Conference regular-season champion Cape Fear Christian. The nail-biting thriller gave WCS an unprecedented seventh consecutive automatic bid to the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Class 1-A playoffs.
The biggest difference besides confidence?
Less errors. Defensive miscues haunted Wayne Christian during its early-season slumber.
"What we've been saying lately is let them make the mistakes," said Crouthamel. "The first part of the year, we were making mistakes. Now, we're starting to hit the ball and we're starting to make the defensive plays. We're putting the pressure on them."
Wayne Christian committed just one error against CFCA, which had six miscues of its own. The teams combined for seven unearned runs.
"Huge," said Eagles coach Scott Pender of his team's defensive effort. "I always tell them the least mistakes wins the ballgame."
There was a little extra pressure on this day.
The current senior class didn't want to break the tradition of hoisting the tournament championship trophy, which had occurred the previous six years. And until right fielder Tan Sanders, pitcher Bryce Norman and catcher Ryan Cooke turned the phenomenal 8-2-1, game-ending double play, there was plenty of doubt.
Just ask Crouthamel.
"That was a big thing coming in, especially for me," said the senior utility player. "I didn't play last year and get that experience of winning so many times in a row. You never want to be the one who doesn't win.
"We've set up a tradition and we're going to keep it going as long as we can. It feels good having that trophy over here."