Baseball falls hard at Richmond County

Published 8:42 am Thursday, May 17, 2018

Davie’s baseball team put up little resistance at Richmond County in the first round of the state 4-A playoffs on May 8. It watched the Raiders score eight unanswered runs in an 8-2 decision.

The Raiders, seeded 15th in the West Region, improved to 18-7 after they finished third in the Sandhills Conference. The No. 18 War Eagles finished 10-12 in their second losing season in a row.

“We got outplayed and outcoached,” coach Bobby Byerly said. “You’re not going to win many with five hits.”

Davie got on the board first, even though Hite Merrifield’s double on the game’s second pitch was wasted in the top of the first. In the second, Grayson Keaton delivered a one-out, two-strike single to right. Keaton stole second and scored on Hunter Bowles’ single to left.

But that was it for Davie’s offense until the seventh. It fell hard against junior Trey Watkins, who went five innings, and two relievers. Merrifield (1-4), Aaron Williams (1-3), Keaton (1-3), Bowles (1-2, walk) and Garrett Chandler (1-3, RBI) had the only hits as Davie was punched out on strikes nine times.

“It’s like Nolan Ryan used to be. You better get to (Watkins) early,” Byerly said. “In the first inning I thought: ‘We’re going to hit this guy.’ But by the third inning he settled in. He relied on his breaking ball, which made his fastball look even better. That’s the reason he had a 1.79 ERA for the year. He doesn’t have a good record (5-5), but he always faced the better teams in their league.”

Davie’s defense against the bunt was a disappointment, Byerly said.  The Raiders took the lead with a two-run second. Their two-run fourth was more than enough damage to send Davie home for good. They did not let up, producing four add-on runs in the sixth.

“We had a good scouting report that they like to move runners around,” he said. “They had 105 stolen bases and umpteen sacrifices, and that’s what they did to us. They didn’t necessarily run so much, but I think they laid down 10 bunts. Defensively, we didn’t do what we needed to do. But again, when you score two runs, your chances are minimal.”

Carson Whisenhunt (2-5, 3.18) was tagged with the loss after going 5.1 innings. Landon Bandy went 2/3. They only allowed seven hits, but four walks, two wild pitches and two hit batsmen were mixed in. And then there were three errors that helped RC score three unearned runs.

“Speed kills and you can’t put people on,” Byerly said. “We knew we couldn’t put them on base as aggressive as they are on the bases.”


• The War Eagles hit .174 (30 for 172) during a 1-7 slide at season’s end. Ouch. They got outscored 38-15 during the span, and the team batting average plummeted to .259. To put Davie’s offensive struggles in perspective, senior Guy Brunelli was second with 11 RBIs – and he missed the last 11 games with a pulled hamstring.

• The Raiders certainly welcomed a breather after playing three straight intense battles. They won 1-0 in eight innings over Scotland County. They lost 5-4 to Scotland. Then they lost 4-3 in 10 innings to Purnell Swett.

• The War Eagles have a five-game losing streak in the state playoffs. They did not qualify in 2014. They lost 4-1 in the first round to East Forsyth in 2015. They lost 6-4 to Mooresville in the first round in 2016. They lost 1-0 to Lake Norman in the first round in 2017.

• Two War Eagles hit over .300, with Merrifield leading the way at .357 and Whisenhunt right behind him at .355. The doubles leaders were the same duo with six each. Chandler led in triples with three. Davie hit three home runs, one each by Cody Hendrix, Cody Smith and Whisenhunt. Hendrix and Williams shared the lead in walks/HBPs with 17 each. Whisenhunt was the runaway leader in RBIs with 20.

• While four seniors wore the black and orange for the final time, Byerly will have 13 returners next year as the 2018 team included nine juniors and four sophomores. “I’m excited with what we’ve got coming back,” he said. “Yeah, we’re going to miss Hendrix, Landon Bandy, Smith and Brunelli, who had a bad-luck season with a hamstring. I feel good about (2019).”