KNIGHTDALE — A two-run home run and a game-ending error on a routine pop fly gave Knightdale its second consecutive win on Friday night and put them over .500 in the conference for the first time this season.
After jumping out to a 6-1 lead in the first two innings, the Knights appeared to be cruising to an easy victory. But Smithfield-Selma charged back, outscoring the Knights by a total of 10-3 in the next four innings to take an 11-9 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh.
That was when one of the most unlikely scenarios began for Knightdale. Garrett Wall, who has just 11 plate appearances on the season and no extra-base hits, came up to bat with a runner on and two outs and drilled a 3-2 pitch over the wall to tie the score.
Dylon Alexander followed Wall with a stand-up double and Nick Pope delivered the game winner after an error on the pop fly to right field as the Knights (8-8, 5-4 Greater Neuse River 4A) pulled out the 12-11 victory over the Spartans (3-15, 2-7).
“This is a game both of these teams needed to win and it gives us a three-game separation from the sixth, seventh and eighth teams,” Knightdale coach Andrew Vaglio said. “There was a lot of excitement in this game. We’ve played everybody tough and this puts us on the right path to move up further in the conference.”
Wall and Alexander were not only heroes at the plate on Friday, they also held their own on the mound. The two combined for two scoreless innings in the final frames with Alexander striking out the final batter before scoring the game-winning run to earn the win.
Nate Driver met an opposite fate for the Spartans. He had a strong night at the plate, scoring two runs on a walk and a double and finishing with three RBI, but the senior was undone on the mound by Wall’s homer and the routine pop-up as he recorded the loss.
“We were swinging the bats well, but just couldn’t get over the defensive lapses,” Smithfield-Selma coach David Lawhon said of his team’s three errors. “Knightdale had some of the same issues, but just got clutch hits down the stretch to sneak one out on us.”
Following the loss, the Spartans appear to have just one role to play during the remainder of the season – spoiler. With contests against Harnett Central and Clayton, the No. 4 and 2 teams in the league, respectively, Knightdale should be rooting for SSS down the stretch.
Meanwhile, the Knights appear to be charging toward a chance to clinch a playoff spot soon, but have hopes of knocking off some of the top teams to claim the No. 2 seed in the conference.
“I’ve been telling my team all year that we’re a very good ball team,” Vaglio said. “We lost to (Garner and Clayton) by just one run. We’ve played everybody tough and we’re hitting the ball better now. We can get up to No. 2 in the conference if things play out right, so these last few games are really important.”