Taylor hurls opening-round no-hitter
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 11, 2012 1:49 PM
DUDLEY -- This one's for you, Kevin.
An inspired Jeremy Taylor tossed a no-hitter and came within one batter of a perfect game in a 5-0, opening-round victory over Northern Nash in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A baseball playoffs Thursday evening.
Taylor tossed the first postseason no-hitter in program history since 2001 when Josh Wilder shut down Fayetteville Cape Fear in the Saints' final season as a 4-A program. Wilder faced one batter over the minimum in that road contest, also.
The Saints (18-9 overall) secured their first playoff win since 2008 and quickly dedicated it in memory of teammate and senior Kevin Wise, who unexpectedly died in his sleep on February 19.
"It's the first playoff game Southern Wayne has had at home (in a while), and Kevin wasn't here to do it, too, so I wanted to do something for him," Taylor said.
A senior right-hander, Taylor walked the first batter he faced -- Luke Joyner -- on six pitches. Taylor struck out the next hitter and induced the Knights into a groundout to Tyler Gainey at third. With a 2-1 count on Braxton Bowden, Joyner attempted to steal and got hung up between second and third base.
Taylor chased Joyner back to second base and flipped the ball to shortstop Keith Jones, who tagged Joyner for inning-ending out. The Knights (10-12) never reached base again as Taylor sat down the next 18 batters.
Northern Nash, an eastern regional finalist in 2007 and 2009, hit just two balls out of the infield -- both to sophomore center fielder Clayton Cashwell. Taylor coaxed the Knights into four pop-ups, nine groundouts and logged six strikeouts in the 96-minute affair.
"I was trying to bust them in on their hands or throw it low in the strike zone so they could do nothing but hit the top half and hit it in the ground," said Taylor, who threw 83 pitches, including 54 strikes.
"I was trying my best to let them put the ball in play and let the defense work. The defense played excellent tonight."
Taylor bobbled the Knights' final ground ball, but gathered it up and tossed it to Taylor Brock at first base. Once the umpire punched out the runner, Taylor pumped his fist and shouted "yes sir!"
"That was the hardest ground ball I've ever fielded in my life," Taylor said.
The Saints' offense started strong early.
Ashton Cox's one-out single ignited a three-run uprising against Knights' left-hander Derrick Carter, who labored through a 31-pitch first inning. Brock and Jacob Sasser each supplied an RBI hit. Gainey, Jones and courtesy runner Colton Chrisman crossed home on the base knocks.
Sasser's run-scoring single culminated a 10-pitch at-bat.
"We jumped on them early, wanted to get ahead the first inning," Gainey said. "That first fastball we kept seeing, we kept hitting it. I was telling our guys the first pitch you need to jump on is the fastball. If you let it get by you, you're in his count now and he can set you up by throwing anything he wants to throw."
The Saints chased Carter in the second inning. Gainey plated Jones with a two-out single off right-handed reliever Steve Williams. A passed ball led to Southern Wayne's final run in the third inning before Williams retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced during his five-inning stint.
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