SMITHFIELD — East Wake realized a reversal of pitching fortunes Tuesday night, but held on to defeat Smithfield-Selma, 12-11, in Greater Neuse River 4A Conference baseball.
After a solid start, the Warriors got just enough out of their bullpen to hold off the Spartans, who mounted a four-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning before falling.
What Worked: East Wake got five innings of solid mound work from starter Logan Jones.
After surrendering a one-out, two-run homer to Chris Parker in the bottom half of the first inning, Jones settled down – and kept the Spartans guessing with a tantalizing curve ball that resulted in five of his nine strikeouts coming with a batter staring at the third strike.
Jones gave up only two other hits while walking two batters and hitting one.
The Warriors also had one of their most prolific nights at the plate, slamming three home runs in an eight-hit attack.
Smithfield-Selma’s never-say-die attitude kept the decision in question until the final out.
The Spartans had a two-out, five-run rally in the sixth inning to close within 11-7, then pieced together a four-run rally in the seventh before leaving the potential game-tying run stranded at first base.
What Didn’t Work: The Spartans’ ability to move base runners in scoring position until the sixth inning. Over the first five frames, with the exception of Parker’s home run, Smithfield-Selma was 1-for-10 in that category.
Relief pitching, normally one of East Wake’s strengths, nearly lost a nine-run lead over the final two innings.
Both teams struggled defensively at times, with an error by East Wake enabling the Spartans to get back into the game.
Smithfield-Selma, which committed four errors, saw a costly error on a pickoff attempt lead to what turned out to be the winning run for the Warriors.
Turning Point: East Wake put together three-run rallies in the second and third innings to grab a 6-2 lead, which it steadily built on throughout the contest.
Once Jones was lifted by Warriors’ coach Derek Matthews after the fifth, Smithfield-Selma batters took advantage of the change of pace on the pitches thrown to them.
Instead of seeing curves, the Spartans were treated to a steady diet of fastballs, which they teed off on, banging out six hits in the final two innings.
Making better contact, the Spartans used three hits, a walk, a hit batter and an error in deep left to get back in the contest. They then used three solid hits along with a sacrifice fly to the wall in mounting the seventh-inning rally.
Unsung Heroes: In addition to a 3-for-4 night at the plate that included a home run and a double, East Wake’s Austin Dickens stopped a potential rally by the Spartans in the fourth inning.
With Branson Bales on third for the Spartans and no one out, Dickens made a stabbing stop of a screaming grounder off the bat of James McMillen, forced Bales to dive back to third and threw out McMillen at first. Jones then retired the next two Spartans batters to end the inning.
Parker gave Smithfield-Selma a 2-0 first-inning lead, then elicited a bad throw to keep the sixth-inning rally going and hit a sacrifice fly that nearly cleared the fence to drive in a run in the seventh.
Putting Up Numbers: Paschal Ammons was 3-for-4 with a double and a home run for East Wake in the win, while Adam Winegar homered as well. Jones added a 2-for-4 day at the plate.
For the Spartans, Nate Driver and Aldarius Parker both went 2-for-5 at the plate and Bales was 2-for-3.
What it Means: Both teams still have an outside chance at the playoffs, but both need to put together winning streaks to get that chance.
East Wake improved to 3-11 overall and 2-4 in the GNRC for sole possession of sixth place, while the Spartans fell to 2-12 and 1-5.