Published 10:09 am Thursday, May 11, 2017

Davie’s varsity baseball team scratched and clawed for a 4-2 win at Mt. Tabor in the first round of the Central Piedmont Conference Tournament.

Davie found itself on the opposite end of the down-to-the-wire spectrum in the semifinals against West Forsyth, losing 2-1.

The split left the up-and-down War Eagles at 12-12. They expected to make this week’s 4-A playoffs as a wild card.

Davie and Tabor split two regular-season meetings. Fifth-seeded Davie hit the road to face the No. 4 Spartans on May 2, and it was a tight battle as expected.

The War Eagles took control in the fourth. With the score 1-1, Cody Hendrix and Carson Whisenhunt put together back-to-back singles and Tyler Roberts reached on an error to load the bases.

Guy Brunelli, who has come out of nowhere of late, delivered the tiebreaking single. Davie had a 3-1 lead when Cody Smith’s fielder’s choice plated a run.

“Brunelli spreads out, chokes up almost to the end of the tape and just puts the ball in play,” coach Bobby Byerly said. “He makes things happen. He’s just a scrapper.”

After Tabor pulled within 3-2 in the fifth, Davie picked up an insurance run in the sixth. It started with a Whisenhunt single. Whisenhunt has been on quite a climb for a sophomore who couldn’t find his stroke early in the season. After starting 1 for 16, he’s been a .311 hitter since (14 for 45).

“He’s gotten more comfortable with varsity pitching,” Byerly said. “He’s always had great bat speed, and he’s got that naturally pretty swing from the left side. It was a confidence thing (early on).”

Bandy followed Whisenhunt with a single. One out later, Brunelli came through again with a single. Whisenhunt would score on Smith’s grounder.

Not only did Smith have two RBIs, he enjoyed brilliant defensive moments. With two on and one out in the sixth, the second baseman turned a 4-3 double play as he tagged the runner before throwing to first.

“He made three or four outstanding plays,” Byerly said. “He made heady plays. He made a great play on a blooper that was behind first base. He made an unassisted double play. He had a great game that saved us.”

Tabor brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh, but a fly out and line out secured Davie’s second win in three tries over Tabor, which lost the season series even though it outscored Davie 8-7.

Whisenhunt (2-3) and Brunelli (2-3) led the offense. Davie got one hit from Chris Reynolds (1-4, double), Hendrix (1-3, walk) and Bandy (1-3). Byerly said Hendrix hit “two lasers.”

Whisenhunt (4.1 innings, four hits, two runs, four walks, four strikeouts) and Roberts (2.2 innings, two hits, no runs, three walks, two Ks) combined on a six-hitter even though they’ve had better outings. Whisenhunt improved his record to 6-4, which is significant. It’s the most wins since Jeremy Walker went 7-1 in 2013, and it’s the most wins by a Davie sophomore in 13 years (John McDaniel went 6-2 in 2004).

After making nine starts, Roberts got a save in his first relief appearance.

Davie got payback against Chris Moutos, who left after 4.1 innings and took the loss after beating Davie 6-2 on April 4 with a complete game. Tabor (14-11) came in on a roll, winning six of seven.

“We had much better at-bats,” Byerly said. “We even had loud outs. We’ve seen a big rise in quality at-bats. We moved in just enough runners to win the game.”

Reynolds maintained his team-high average at .383. Brunelli rose to .307 and moved to second in RBIs (10) despite only having 26 at-bats.


In the semifinals against West Forsyth on May 3, Davie failed to capitalize on a sterling mound performance by senior Zach Hudspeth, losing 2-1 to the top-seeded Titans. The semifinals and final were held at North Davidson.

It was a jaw-dropping effort by a guy who came in 1-2 with a 4.62 ERA in three starts and three relief stints over 19 2/3 innings. He went the distance after averaging less than three innings per outing. He chopped his ERA to 3.62.

“It was the outing of the year,” Byerly said of the lefthander. “He gutted it up. In the third inning, his (left) knee was exploding and he just sucked it up. He’s got a bad knee. I’m telling you, that was the guttiest pitching performance I’ve seen in a long time.”

Davie threatened in the second when Whisenhunt singled, Bandy put down a sac bunt and Roberts walked. But Whisenhunt was called out at third when he tried to advance on a pitch in the dirt. Byerly disagreed with the call.

“Carson read it perfectly,” he said.

West had two on with one out in the third, but Smith and Reynolds turned a 4-6-3 double play. In the sixth, Reynolds walked with one out, only to get caught stealing when West called a pitch out at the perfect time. Beau Byerly followed with a single that might have meant something if not for the failed steal attempt on what was going to be a hit-and-run.

Other than that, it was quiet for five and a half innings. Then came a thunderclap in the West sixth. The Titans benefited from two errors sandwiched around a single to take a 1-0 lead. Bandy, Roberts and Hendrix turned a 5-3-2 double play to keep Davie within one.

“The place went nuts,” Byerly said. “It was bang-bang at the plate. Cody blocked it up and made the tag. That was huge.”

Davie rallied in the top of the seventh. Whisenhunt reached on an error and advanced on another sac bunt by Bandy.

“Landon laid down a perfect bunt,” Byerly said. “The pitcher came out of nowhere. I don’t really know how he made the play. He backhand flipped it.”

West got a strikeout for out two. With Garrett Chandler pinch-running for Whisenhunt, up stepped Brunelli, who rescued Davie in a pinch-hitting role. He hammered a double up the middle to bring home Chandler and tie the game.

“He hit a laser,” Byerly said. “He’s been Mr. Clutch lately. He’s squaring up everything. I told him: ‘I want you swinging every inning because if a situation comes up where we need a hit, you’re going in.’ It seems he’s always going to make contact. He hit it so hard it got by the center fielder. He said he (Joey) Votto’ed it.

“Guy is a baseball encyclopedia. He studies stats. He’s a big Pirates fan. I love him. He’s got the best attitude. How big was that hit? It was electric. We had one foot in the grave and the other one sliding down the side.”

However, the Titans scratched out a walk-off run in the bottom of the seventh. There was a single with one out, then a stolen base. With two outs and an 0-2 count, the No. 8 batter sucked the air out of Davie’s upset hopes with a run-scoring single.

It was the fifth straight win for West (17-7). The teams split in the regular season.

“It was one of the most fun games I’ve coached in a long, long time,” Byerly said.

The silver lining was Hudspeth, who was extremely economical in 85 pitches. He gave up six hits, one earned run and walked none. He faced 26 batters, six over the minimum for 6 2/3 innings.

“He gave it everything,” Byerly said. “He poured his guts out on that mound. One of our words all the time is grit, and if that’s not grit then I’ve never seen it. It’s a heartbreaker to play like that and lose. To see the tears run down (Hudspeth’s) face, you know he poured everything he had in him into that game. He earned an even higher respect from me.”

His breaking ball was the key.

“I don’t know how many foul balls they hit over the third-base dugout by righties,” Byerly said. “He had them so off-kilter. I tell them all the time: There’s a difference in throwing and pitching, and that was a pitching gem. It was like a movie. It was magical.”

Gianni Smith (6.2 innings) and Andrew Upton checked Davie on three hits. Byerly (1-3), Whisenhunt (1-3) and Brunelli (1-1) had the hits.

Notes: Brunelli (.333) is tied for first with Whisenhunt with 11 RBIs, and he’s third with three doubles. … Davie is hitting .227, averaging 3.3 runs and 5.7 hits. On the flip side, the staff’s ERA is 2.69. … In the final, No. 2 North Davidson beat West 9-4.