04/28/13 — N. Duplin defeats AG baseball

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N. Duplin defeats AG baseball

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 28, 2013 12:08 AM

AYDEN -- Mitchell Thigpen got the pitcher's best friend -- a double-player grounder -- at the right time against Ayden-Grifton on Friday evening.

The seventh-inning defensive gem helped North Duplin claim an error-filled, 5-4 victory and seize sole possession of the Carolina 1-A Conference baseball race at 6-2.

The Chargers, the reigning league champions, dropped into a three-way tie with Spring Creek and Rosewood for second place at 5-3.

"We played hard and that's how we've played all season," second-year North Duplin head coach James Hobbs said. "They battled. We've been in a lot of one- and two-run games this year, and we're winning some and we've lost a few."

This win had some meaning, no doubt.

Despite four defensive miscues, North Duplin (13-6 overall) bolstered its chances of winning a second regular-season title in the past three years. The Rebels shared the 2011 championship with the Chargers.

"We fought back great," said Thigpen, the Rebels' lone senior. "We stayed in it, never let our heads get down."

The teams traded the lead on five occasions before North Duplin took control for good during a two-run sixth inning. Tyler Potter reached on an infield error and moved into scoring position on Taylan Lewis' base hit to left field.

Charlie Mac Holloman reached on an infield error to load the bases and Potter raced home on an errant throw during the play. Another error and infield fly rule pushed the Rebels in front, 5-4.

Ayden-Grifton (15-6) finished with six errors and yielded five unearned runs on the night.

"Even when we made some mistakes and gave them some runs, we didn't let that get us down and we kept fighting," Hobbs said. "As long as they go hard, that's all I can ask of them."

Starting pitcher Cody Ivey injured his non-throwing hand during his first at-bat and lasted three innings on the pitching rubber. Thigpen wiggled out of a fourth-inning jam and retired the Chargers in order in the fifth.

Ayden-Grifton's Mike Stancil, who endured the pitching loss, reached on an infield error to start the sixth. Thigpen coaxed Hunter Cannon into a grounder that led to a U-6-3 double play by Kornegay and first baseman Trey Pate.

Thigpen walked the next batter and induced a game-ending groundout by Walker Stocks for his fifth pitching win of the season. The right-hander struck out three and walked two in four innings of scoreless relief.

The Rebels trailed 4-3 when Thigpen replaced Ivey.

"My nerves were killing me," Thigpen said. "I've been in that position before, but I've never been that nervous my entire life. I don't know if it was the weight of being first in the conference on my mind or what.

"The double play helped, took some relief off of my shoulders."