Ellis baseball sweeps doubleheader

Published 9:34 am Thursday, May 21, 2015

Two red-hot baseball teams collided when North Davie hosted Ellis in a doubleheader last week. North had won eight in a row. Ellis was on a five-game winning streak.

Ellis made a loud statement, sweeping the doubleheader. Both games were thrilling and intense, with the Jaguars winning 4-3 and 5-3.

North finished 10-3, the losses being by a combined four runs.

“We weren’t in it,” North coach Jeremy Brooks said. “Physical errors, mental errors, strikeouts, base-running problems – name it, we did it. It was disappointing to end it that way, but I won’t let it spoil an outstanding season.”

Game one belonged to Ellis’ Clay Summers. Not only did he pitch all five innings, he went 2 for 3 with two RBIs, two runs and a ground-rule double.

Ellis grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. North shaved it to 2-1, but Ellis regained a 3-1 edge in the third. It scored again in the fourth to make it 4-1.

North made things very interesting in the bottom of the fifth. The Wildcats pushed across two runs and had runners at the corners with two outs in a 4-3 game. Ellis held on as a Wildcat popped out in foul ground on the third-base side.

The Jaguars never trailed in game two, either. Michael Shelton pitched five innings and Hite Merrifield went 3 for 3 with a ground-rule double as Ellis won 5-3.

Ellis took control in the bottom of the first. After Tommy Aguilar reached on an error, Merrifield bounced one over the fence for a double. Then came a two-run single by Mac Beaty.

In the fifth, North trimmed a 5-2 deficit to 5-3 and, after a walk and bloop hit, had two on with two outs. Merrifield, the shortstop, made a running catch to end the game, giving Ellis a seven-game winning streak in the series and a 16-4 record in the all-time series.

“Merrifield made a tremendous catch in short left field behind third base,” Ellis coach Mike Dinkins said. “I thought the ball was going to drop in. He came up with a super catch.”

Overall, it was a great year for North’s first-year coach.

“I’m proud of these guys,” Brooks said. “It was a lot of fun. They are a great group of kids with bright futures. I was really pleased with the poise of our seventh graders today. They didn’t seem fazed at all by the big-game environment. It will be fun to see them grow next year.”

For the day, Merrifield had four hits, Summers three and M. Beaty and Aguilar two each. Ellis got one hit from Jaxon Beaty, Will Cheek, Hunter Meacham and Shelton.

Merrifield continued to sizzle in Ellis’ final game of the season, going 3 for 4 with a double, triple and home run as the Jags pounded Starmount 15-5 in six innings on the road.

“Merrifield popped up the last time,” Dinkins said. “I was hoping he was going to get a single so he would have the cycle. He pounded the ball. The triple short-hopped the right-field fence (in opposite field).”

M. Beaty (3-4, four RBIs) and Shelton (2-2, two walks, three runs) helped the Jaguars (10-1) close with an eight-game winning streak and post the eighth victory by 10-plus runs.

In the first, Merrifield homered with Shelton aboard. His second homer of the season staked starting-pitcher Shelton to an early cushion.

“And it was hit,” Dinkins said. “Their softball field and baseball field are back to back, with maybe 15 feet in between. It hit the fence of the softball field. When it was hit, I went: ‘Oh, gosh, it’s going to go on the softball field.’”

In the second, Ellis pushed a 2-1 advantage to 4-1. Cheek had an infield hit. After a sac bunt, Shelton singled and stole second. Merrifield followed with a double.

Starmount came roaring back in the third, turning a 5-1 Ellis lead into a 5-5 tie. No worries. Ellis scored five in the fourth, and never slowed down.

Ellis produced two defensive gems in the fourth to protect the 10-5 lead. Garrett Chandler threw out a runner at second, and first baseman Bailey McKnight scooped a low throw.

“A kid thought he had a double off the fence,” Dinkins said. “Chandler made a perfect throw to second base and Jaxon Beaty put the tag on him.

“(Third baseman) Aguilar had to go deep toward third. The momentum carried him across the line. He made a throw and McKnight dug it out of the dirt.”

After Shelton tossed two innings, Merrifield and Aguilar, neither of whom had ever pitched at Ellis, worked in relief. After Merrifield went three innings, Aguilar worked a 1-2-3 sixth to wrap things up.

Dinkins praised M. Beaty for catching every inning of every game. “I think there were only three legit steals off him,” he said. “And he made the (Mocksville) Junior Legion team, so he’s had a really good year.”

Notes: Dinkins is 83-28 over eight years as the only coach the Jaguars have ever had. … This marked Ellis’ fourth straight winning season, and it’s 43-11 during that span. … South Davie (1-10) lost 12-2 at Forbush in the Tigers’ final game. Evan Little, Nick Pinkos, Tanner Hartness and Izaak Woerz had one hit each.