Baseball’s first place hopes vanish
Published 9:26 am Friday, April 27, 2018
The Davie baseball team’s hopes for its first regular-season title since 2012 vanished in a puff of smoke with two losses in a span of four days to East Forsyth.
Davie let the first meeting, at East on April 17, slip away 4-3. Baseball can be a beautiful, orderly game or it can be a maddening, frustrating game. It was both on this day.
All was bliss through four and a half innings. Carson Whisenhunt had a no-hitter after three innings and a one-hitter through four. Davie had a 3-0 lead after the top of the fifth in a game that could have put the War Eagles in a tie for first with East.
Davie got on the board in the fourth. Cody Hendrix singled and his courtesy runner, Hunter Bowles, moved to third on Whisenhunt’s double to left. Aaron Williams plated Bowles with a ground out. Then courtesy-runner Will Cheek scored on a passed ball.
In the fifth, Landon Bandy doubled the other way down the right-field line and scored on another Whisenhunt double.
Davie had the promising 3-0 lead. But it left Kernersville with a what-might-have-been headache.
A single, two walks and a single allowed East to catch Davie at 3-3 in the fifth. Whisenhunt held East to three hits in 5.2 innings and struck out six. The problem was he walked four and needed 101 pitches to get 17 outs.
“He was on,” coach Bobby Byerly said. “He threw well, but base on balls always seem to bite you.”
Davie missed an opportunity in the top of the seventh. Hite Merrifield opened with an infield hit and stole second. But when Bandy bunted to the pitcher, Merrifield was thrown out at third. The next batter bounced into a 6-4-3 double play.
Davie got kicked in the shins in the bottom of the seventh. The No. 9 batter, Jackson May, who struck out on three Whisenhunt pitches and walked in his previous plate appearances, rode Bandy’s first offering over the right-field fence for a walk-off homer.
Merrifield (2-4), Whisenhunt (2-3) and Cody Smith (2-3, two steals) helped Davie dominate East in hits (9-4). Bandy had made 10 relief appearances in two varsity seasons without suffering a loss.
While Davie slipped to second in the Central Piedmont Conference at 4-3, East’s sixth straight win lifted it to 13-5 overall and 6-1 in the league. Davie had won three straight before watching its second 3-0 lead of the CPC race get away. It lost 4-3 at West Forsyth on March 29 after taking a 3-0 lead over the Titans.
“When you outhit the other team 9-4, you like your chances,” Byerly said. “We hit it well, but it would have been great to have a couple more timely hits. We were up 3-0 and had runners at second and third. We popped up.”
Notes: Whisenhunt raised his No. 1 average to .435 and extended his hitting streak to eight. “At one time he reached base in 10 straight plate appearances,” Byerly said. … This was just the fourth Davie-East meeting since 2007. Davie won 6-2 at East in the first round of the 2007 playoffs. East won 4-1 in the first round of the 2015 playoffs and 8-7 in 2017.
Davie sputtered to three hits and lost 5-2 at Mooresville in a nonconference game on April 18.
Merrifield went 2 for 3 with a triple to become the batting-average leader at .411. It was his fifth multi-hit performance. Grayson Keaton, who tripled, had the only other hit for Davie.
After Keaton made his first varsity mound start and went three innings, Justin Chaffin tossed three scoreless innings in his second relief outing of the season.
This was the first meeting since Mooresville broke Davie’s heart, 6-4, in the first round of the 2016 playoffs.
The War Eagles experienced another come-from-ahead loss in the rematch against East on April 20 at Davie. They watched a 2-0 lead evaporate in a 6-3 setback that marked the longest losing streak (three) of the season.
Spencer Nifong, who was coming off a four-hit shutout of Glenn, could not get out of the fifth inning as East tagged him for six runs off nine hits in 4.2 innings.
Davie’s 2-0 lead was produced by Hendrix, who singled, and Whisenhunt, who fell behind 0-2, fought back to 2-2 and sent the seventh pitch over the right-field fence for a two-run homer.
After Davie (9-8 overall) left Smith and Keaton at second and third in the second, it never threatened again. East performed two-out lightning in the third and fourth to tie Davie at 2. May burned Davie again, his triple driving in the tying run.
East took command with a four-run fifth. The carnage went like this: double, triple, sac fly, single, walk, single and two-run single from that scary No. 9 man, May, who went 2 for 4 and knocked out Nifong.
Merrifield (1-4), Hendrix (1-3), Whisenhunt (1-3), Keaton (1-2) and Michael Shelton (1-2) had Davie’s five hits.
Notes: While East is 7-1, Davie and Reagan are tied for second at 4-4. West, Glenn and Reynolds are tied at 3-5. … It wasn’t much solace, but Chaffin worked 2.1 scoreless innings, giving him a 0.91 ERA in 7.2 innings. … Merrifield (.400) has hit safely in 14 of 17 games. … Whisenhunt (.400) cranked his first homer and bumped his team-high RBI total to 19. … Keaton has pulled off a dramatic turnaround. He was 0 for 9 on March 29. He is 8 for 15 since April 10, resulting in a season average of .333.