Davie splits tense games

Published 2:00 pm Thursday, March 19, 2015

By Brian Pitts

Davie Enterprise Record

The unheralded Isaac Campbell stood toe-to-toe with Reagan’s top-flight pitcher, Jacob Hartle, in Campbell’s varsity debut. Nathan Harrell enjoyed an unforgettable varsity debut. And Davie’s varsity baseball team pulled off a resounding 2-1 win at Reagan.

It was the season opener – as well as the Central Piedmont Conference opener – for Davie. The loss dropped Reagan’s overall record to 1-1.

It was an electric win for the War Eagles, who were coming off a disappointing seven-win season in which they were swept by Reagan and were 1-3 in games decided by one run.

“It was a great game,” coach Bobby Byerly said. “It was one of the most enjoyable games that I’ve been in in a while. It was a clean game. Not many mistakes. The place was packed. It was just a great atmosphere.”

Davie faced adversity right off the bat. The No. 1 pitcher, Colby Cranfill, was unavailable to pitch after suffering an ankle injury in PE class. The next day, catcher Caleb Wallace sustained an injury and was sidelined.

With Cranfill out, Campbell got the nod on the mound. He was unfazed, throwing two-hit ball for four innings and allowing one unearned run. He exited with Davie trailing 1-0 after throwing 62 pitches.

“I’ve know that boy since he was about 11, and I’m telling you, he really showed another side of him today,” Byerly said. “If he throws like that, he’s going to keep us in a lot of games. I’m proud of him. He’s worked his tail off since soccer season was over. He’s really turned the corner. He’s gotten stronger in the weight room. He’s one of the boys on this team that likes to work.”

Davie doesn’t win without heroics from Nathan Harrell, who got the win in relief thanks to his own bat. He homered in the seventh to break a 1-1 tie.

How good was Nathan on the hill? He faced the minimum in three innings. Reagan got one hit off him, but he was erased by a back pick from catcher Paul Davenport.

“I was really impressed with our pitching,” Byerly said. “When you hold a CPC team to three hits, you’ve done something. And they’ve got some firepower in their lineup. The whole offseason we’ve been screaming: ‘Make them hit it. Make them hit it.’”

A critical part of the puzzle was a pair of 6-4-3 double plays by shortstop Ryan Harrell and twin brother Nathan, who started the game at second base. With the bases loaded in the first, the Harrells turned a DP to keep Reagan off the board. With two on in the third, the Harrells turned a DP to keep Reagan’s lead at 1-0.

“We got out of two rough situations,” he said.

Davie was limited to four hits by Hartle, who has committed to UNC-Greensboro, and Will Sprinkle. Besides Nathan’s dinger, Brandon Lankford doubled and Chris Reynolds and Craig Colbourne had singles.

“Hartle is legit,” Byerly said. “Colbourne had good at-bats. He laced one in the five-six hole (to opposite field). He hit a hard liner to the shortstop. He hit another hard liner. So he had three good at-bats.”

Davie forced at tie at 1-1 in the sixth, sparked by Reynolds’ leadoff single. He moved up on a passed ball and scored on Lankford’s double down the right-field line. It was a bang-bang play at the plate, the call going Davie’s way.

Nathan was the first batter in the seventh. He drove the game-winning homer to left-center. Making it all the more impressive, Reagan is definitely a pitcher’s park. Earlier in the at-bat, Byerly wasn’t happy with Nathan’s approach. Before he could finish muttering something like, “Come on, Nathan,” he was sending it out of the yard.

“It was a no-doubter,” Byerly said. “He got all of it. It made me look good. I fussed at him the pitch before. The next pitch he hits one about 390 (feet).”

Next, Davie had a break from the CPC meat-grinder, playing a nonconference game at Salisbury. The War Eagles compensated for five hits by launching two home runs. The result was a 7-0 shutout that handed the Hornets their first loss.

Ryan’s two-run shot staked Davie to a 2-0 lead. Lankford’s three-run blast pushed the margin to 5-0.

“We didn’t exactly tear the cover off the ball,” Byerly said. “But we played Earl Weaver ball. We hit a couple of no-doubters with men on base.”

Ryan (four innings), Jalen Scott (two innings) and Lankford (one inning) checked Salisbury on four hits. Lankford retired the side in order in the seventh on 11 pitches. Other than lowly Parkland, it was Davie’s first shutout since a 4-0 decision over North Davidson in 2013.

Salisbury was 3-0 for the first time in coach Scott Maddox’s 15 years as the Hornets’ skipper.

Then it was back to the tense CPC. Davie and Reagan waged another pitchers’ duel, this time at Mando Field in Mocksville. The result was different, though, as Reagan pulled away in the seventh for a 5-1 decision.

Byerly bemoaned Davie’s lack of offense (five hits compared to 11 for Reagan).

“They did the right things,” he said. “Nine of their hits were up the middle or opposite side. We had our opportunities. To this point, we just can’t string hits together. We’re tying to be fence-pounders when we shouldn’t be. When we get a couple guys on, instead of doing our job, we’re just not moving people around. Three innings we had two men on and we didn’t score them. We’ve got to do a better job coaching them up and getting them to do what they’re supposed to be doing, so that’s what we’re going to do (at the next practice).”

Mitchell McGee did his part, going 3 for 3 and leading off the third with a double. Lankford’s swinging bunt pushed him home as Davie grabbed a 1-0 lead.

Reynolds and Ryan had the only other hits for Davie. Reagan took a 2-1 lead in the fourth, and it broke it open with three in the seventh as Davie failed in its attempt for the first 2-0 CPC start since 2011.

Cranfill pitched well in defeat, allowing four hits and two runs in five innings. He was relieved by Josh Byrd.

“We’ve got to take the pressure off our pitchers and defense,” he said. “We’ve got to do something with the bats. We’ve got to quit having selfish at-bats.”