Ellis baseball beats South with rally

Published 9:24 am Thursday, May 18, 2017

Although it was stung by Elkin in the final game, the Ellis baseball team defied coach Mike Dinkins’ preseason expectations, posted nine-plus wins for the sixth straight year and recorded the ninth winning season in the school’s 10-year history.

“We overachieved,” Dinkins said. “It was a great group to work with. Going into the season, we were thinking: ‘We’ve got no returning pitchers. We’ve got nobody back that played (last year). Let’s see what we can do with this little bunch.’ It turned out alright.”


North Davie was overwhelmed at Chestnut Grove on May 2, getting held to three hits and losing 12-2. Ethan Wilkins, Blake Little and Daniel Lawson had the hits.

“The roller coaster continued,” coach Jeremy Brooks said. “We ran into a very talented team.”


South Davie coach Todd Bumgarner was exasperated following a 16-11 loss at Summit on May 2. The Tigers coughed up an 11-0 lead.

After racking up eight hits and those 11 runs in the first two innings, they went hitless from the third through the seventh. There were eight home runs clubbed on Summit’s small field. Unfortunately, five of the long balls belonged to the home team.

“No homer was more than a routine fly ball (at other ballparks),” Bumgarner said. “It was like playing at Collette Field (behind Mocksville Elementary School). There was one home rum to center field – at a regular park, the center fielder would have run up to catch it. But take nothing away from Summit. They are better than we are.”

Gage Recktenwald cranked a grand slam and Andrew Shuler followed with a solo shot as South roared to a 5-0 lead in the top of the first. A six-run second was highlighted by Jack Reynolds’ two-run homer.

The rest of the game, however, was all Summit, which hit two homers in a six-run third and three more in a 10-run fifth.

“You feel bad for your pitchers,” Bumgarner said of the short dimensions.


South’s next game – against visiting Ellis on May 3 – could be filed under Missed Opportunity for the Tigers. In the top of the seventh, they held a 3-2 lead with two outs and nobody on. The Jaguars discovered a path to 8-5 victory thanks to four hits, two errors and two walks during an unlikely six-run rally.

“We can’t buy a break,” Bumgarner said. “I hate it for my kids. When you fight and claw to get back in a game and then you’ve got a lead with two outs and nobody on and lose, that’s tough to swallow.”

Ellis’ last-inning magic began when No. 9 batter Cole Turner reached on a two-out error. Then came an infield single from Beaven Arey and a walk by Justin Collins. With the bases loaded, Reed Cunningham slid into first and was safe as the tying and go-ahead runs came home on the play.

“Reed made the play of the year,” Dinkins said. “He dove into first to beat the throw by an arm’s length.”

Then the floodgates opened. Josh Westmoreland doubled to the left-field corner. After Zach Rodgers walked, Jordan Comer blooped a single and then Baylor Stewart doubled.

“In 42 years, I’ve never had that happen where we had two outs, nobody on and scored six runs,” said Dinkins, who picked up his 100th win (against 32 losses) in 10 years. “That was one for the ages. You sit there as a coach and go: ‘Wow.’”

“None of those runs should have scored,” Bumgarner said. “But you’ve got to give Ellis credit. They put the ball in play.”

South got off the deck to push across two runs in the bottom of the seventh, but it wasn’t enough.

For six innings, the evening offered quite a duel between Zach Rodgers and Reynolds. For Ellis, Rodgers went all seven innings, scattered nine hits, walked one and struck out eight. Trot Byerly, JT Bumgarner and Edgar Ramos had two hits each for South.

For South, Reynolds went 6 2/3 innings, allowed six hits, gave up one earned run, walked one and struck out seven.

“Rodgers pounds the strike zone,” Bumgarner said. “He’s not overpowering, but he can show you that curveball and he doesn’t beat himself.”

“Reynolds shut us down (from the second through the sixth),” Dinkins said. “He pitched a heck of a game. Both of them were on. It was basically two warriors going at it.”

Stung by poor luck, South suffered its fourth straight loss. South beat Ellis in the first meeting, 6-1 on April 13. Ellis snapped a two-game slide as it played its first game in 20 days.


North Davie and host Summit combined for six home runs on May 4. The Wildcats emerged victorious, 9-8, by collecting four dingers.

Little (3-4, homer), Will Summers (2-4), Wilkins (2-2, homer, three RBIs), Lawson (2-3, homer) and JT Richards (1-4, homer)  led the North offense. It was Little’s third long ball and the second for Wilkins and Lawson. It was the first for Richards.

“This field was the strangest I’ve played on,” Brooks said. “The shortest point was actually center field. We took advantage and hit some timely bombs.”

Wyatt McDaniel, Summers and Lawson handled the pitching, with Summers getting credit for the win and Lawson the save.

“McDaniel pitched pretty well in his first middle-school game. He kept us in it,” Brooks said. “Summers ate the middle innings and pitched tough. Lawson came out throwing gas. He came in in the sixth and blew the 5-6 hitters away. It was fun to watch.”

Although North finished with a losing record (6-7), it won three of four down the stretch.

“This season was an absolute roller coaster,” Brooks said. “I’m glad it ended on a high note. We didn’t play any cupcakes. We have a young team. I think the young guys got better and the team was more competitive as the year progressed.”


South snapped a four-game losing streak with a 10-4 win at Starmount on May 8.

Leading 6-4 going into the top of the seventh, the Tigers turned the game into a blowout with four runs. After Reece Yount walked, Reynolds doubled to the right-center gap. Bumgarner followed with a ground-rule double. Then Recktenwald doubled off the left-field fence.

Reynolds (2-4, double), Bumgarner (2-4, double, two RBIs) and Recktenwald (2-3, double) had two hits each from the top three spots in the order. Yount singled, walked twice and knocked in two runs. Wesley Mason (1-4) and Cole Warner (1-4) had one hit each.

Reynolds silenced the Starmount bats once he entered in the fifth. He struck out five of 11 batters in three scoreless innings.

South played without No. 2 batter Byerly, a .400 hitter who was sidelined by an ailing back.

“We hadn’t been coming up with big hits,” Bumgarner said. “We had some in the seventh. It wasn’t a clean game either way, but we’ll take it anyway we can get it.”


Westmoreland went 3 for 3 as Ellis overcame a three-run deficit to beat visiting Forbush 5-4 on May 8.

“We beat a good team,” Dinkins said.

In the fifth, Cunningham reached on a two-out hit by pitch and then Westmoreland singled as Ellis caught Forbush at 4-4. The Jaguars manufactured the clinching run in the sixth. Comer blooped a single over the second baseman. Stewart put down a beautiful bunt hit. Cole Turner walked with one out to load the bases. With two outs, Collins drew an RBI walk on a fullcount pitch.

Stewart (1-2), Collins (1-3), Cunningham (1-3) and Comer (1-3) had one hit each for Ellis.

Rodgers was the winning pitcher, displaying magnificent command as he went the final five innings in relief. He didn’t allow a run, walked none and fanned five.

With runners at the corners and two outs in the seventh, Rodgers coaxed a popup to third to turn away the Falcons.

“Zach was amazing the last five innings,” Dinkins said. “He reminds me a lot of Jeremy Walker. Jeremy was about the same size at this age. If Zach puts on about 15 pounds in the right places … His curveball is real good. He’s a pitcher.”


Elkin slammed four home runs and downed visiting Ellis 13-7 on May 9. The game was shortened to five innings by rain and lightning.

The Jaguars slipped to 9-3 in their final game. They dug a 10-0 hole, but they didn’t go down without a fight. Turner, Comer, Stewart, Daniel Reichard, Arey and Cunningham mixed hits around walks to Dylan Doss and Collins as Ellis erupted for seven runs in the fourth to chop the deficit to three. Comer reached on an error to help the cause, and Turner had two hits in the inning.

But Elkin responded with one run in the fourth and two in the fifth. “They’re much improved,” Dinkins said.


South’s home game against Forbush on May 11 was lost in the third inning. That’s when the Falcons scored seven to put South in a 7-1 hole. Forbush settled for a 9-5 decision.

Forbush’s offense blended 11 hits with eight walks. South was held to five hits. Reynolds went 2 for 3 with a double. Recktenwald (1-3, double), Mason (1-3) and Ramos (1-4) had one hit apiece.

The Tigers, who were missing injured Byerly again, dropped five of six down the stretch to finish 6-7.

Notes: Reynolds had a monster season, hitting .589 with two homers and 10 RBIs to go with a 1.81 ERA in 42 1/3 innings. … Bumgarner hit .456 with 16 RBIs. Recktenwald hit .357 with 13 RBIs.