WENDELL — In the seven years since Knightdale opened its doors, the baseball team had never swept East Wake in a single season or won a game at Saber Stadium.
On Tuesday night, the Knights (6-8 overall, 4-4 Greater Neuse River 4A) picked up both of those firsts with a 5-3 win over East Wake (3-13, 2-6).
Knightdale jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but had to hold off a late charge by the Warriors in order to pull off the sweep. As was the case in the first showdown between the two teams, starting pitcher Dylon Alexander shut down the Warriors to earn his second win over East Wake – becoming the first pitcher to not only earn a win at East Wake, but to also never lose to them in his career.
“Both teams had a lot of fight tonight,” Knightdale coach Andrew Vaglio said. “But to come out on top of this one, especially when it’s your cross-town rival, is huge. This team’s got a lot of grit and a lot of fight to them.”
Game changer: After two scoreless innings in the fifth and sixth, Warrior pitcher Logan Jones had his pitch count down and some confidence going into the last inning. But Trey Wall changed all of that with one swing of the bat.
While it wasn’t the winning run, Wall’s homer in the top of the seventh shifted any sort of momentum that the Warriors had from their run in the fifth inning back to the Knights.
“He threw a curveball on the first pitch and came back with that same pitch two pitches later,” Wall explained. “He just left it right down the middle and I got a hold of it. We wanted to go into that last inning with less stress, and I feel like that provided it.”
Wall took a hanging 1-1 pitch over the fence in center, giving Alexander a two-run cushion heading into the bottom of the seventh.
“Trey hitting that home run helped me out a lot,” Alexander said. “It took a lot of weight off the team and helped relax me up there. This was a huge game and that was a huge hit.”
What worked: Both squads pitched their aces, and neither disappointed. Jones pitched a complete game, and despite taking the loss he dealt just 98 pitches and struck out seven batters while allowing only two earned runs.
While Jones put up numbers that would earn him a win on many nights, Alexander was dealing for the Knights. The senior also pitched a complete game to move to 4-3 with a 2.30 ERA on the season. Of his 109 pitches in the contest, he finished with nine strikeouts and just six hits.
“He’s been awesome,” Wall said of Alexander’s performance. “He’s thrown really well all year. I’d like to say that what he did was unexpected, but that’s just what we’ve come to expect from him at this point. That’s the level he’s playing at right now.”
Going forward: Knightdale continues on its hunt for a playoff spot and will take on West Johnston on Tuesday, which will likely be for the fourth in the conference. As for the Warriors, playing spoiler seems like the more likely route.
With Harnett Central and Clayton, two of the top three teams in the conference, on the schedule next week, coach Derek Matthews believes his team can upset one of the two thanks to his new ace.
“If Logan (Jones) keeps pitching like he did tonight and against Smithfield-Selma, he’s going to upset a big team,” he said. “You can mark it down, we expect to take down a big team this year. Especially with the confidence Logan has on the mound right now.”