Davie rallies in 7th

Published 9:29 am Thursday, May 2, 2019

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With Davie’s baseball team needing a sweep over Reagan to claim first place in the Central Piedmont Conference, the Raiders were two outs from putting Davie away in the first meeting in Pfafftown on April 23.

They held a 2-1 lead, they had ace Josh Hartle on the mound, Davie’s Jacob Campbell was behind 0-2 in the count with one out and nobody on, and a team loaded with high-profile guys had its 16th straight win within sight.

All Davie had was its unwavering belief.

The War Eagles pulled a rabbit out of their hat, striking for two runs in the top of the seventh, winning 2-1 and setting up a winner-take-all matchup two nights later at Davie.

“It comes down to one game, and that’s how it should be,” Davie coach Bradley Rudisill said. “They played great all year, we played great all year, and this is what it should come down to.”

Campbell, Hunter Bowles, Garrett Chandler, Aaron Williams and Carson Whisenhunt all reached base in the seventh to lift Davie to 19-2 overall and 8-1 in the CPC and to its first win over Reagan since March 18, 2016. The Raiders slipped to 17-3, 8-1. They had enjoyed four one-run wins during their 15-game win streak. All three of their losses have been by one run, including 2-1 to High Point Central and 3-2 to Northwest Guilford.

It was a magnificent pitchers’ duel between southpaws Whisenhunt, who is headed to East Carolina, and Hartle, who has committed to Wake Forest as a sophomore. Hartle allowed six hits, walked two and struck out 10 in 6.1 innings.

“Hartle pitched lights out,” Rudisill said. “There’s a reason he’s the No. 1 sophomore pitcher in the nation. He knows how to locate up, down, in and out. For six innings, he had our number. We chased some pitches early in the game, but (in the seventh) we put good swings on the ball.”

Whisenhunt was a beast, throwing a two-hitter with two walks and eight Ks. He retired the last nine Raiders in a 66-strike, 100-pitch effort. The big, powerful senior improved to 7-0 with an 0.48 ERA in his first seven-inning outing since March 27, 2018. His season line is staggering: 43 innings, 13 hits, eight runs, three earned runs, 28 walks and 82 strikeouts. He became the first seven-game winner in six years (Jeremy Walker went 7-1 in 2013). He posted the first 7-0 record in 12 years (Bryan King was 7-0 before finishing 7-1 in 2007).

“He worked ahead pretty much the entire night,” Rudisill said. “The last inning he sat 88-90 (mph). In the first inning, he ran it up to 92. His ability to pitch at the same level through the whole game is a testament to who Carson is and the work that he’s put in.”

Davie had a chance to hurt Hartle in the third. Bowles singled with one out. With two outs, Anthony Azar reached on an error and Williams singled to load the bases. But Hartle got Whisenhunt to fly out to keep the game scoreless.

Reagan scratched out its run in the bottom of the third. A walk was followed by a sac bunt. With two outs and two strikes on the next batter, a seeing-eye single past shortstop Michael Shelton put Reagan on the board.

In the Reagan fourth, Campbell and Shelton turned a 4-6-3 double play. In the Reagan fifth, Whisenhunt got a strikeout to strand a runner at third. In the Davie sixth, Williams walked and Whisenhunt dropped down a sac bunt – but courtesy runner Will Cheek was thrown out trying to take two bases on the play.

“Will saw that nobody was covering third and he tried to move up,” Rudisill said. “It was a hard effort play. (Reagan’s) Danny Beal was able to get back (to third).”

Hartle retired the first batter in the Davie seventh and Campbell was quickly behind 0-2. You could sense 2-1 heartbreak coming for Davie, but Campbell worked a walk.

“He had really good at-bats,” Rudisill said. “Our mindset (early) was we’ve got to be aggressive. Later on as (Hartle) started to fatigue a little, he started to leave some balls up in the zone.”

After Campbell trotted to first, Reagan coach Gary Nail visited the mound. He epitomizes someone who’s been there and done that, having guided South Stokes to three straight state championships in the early 2000s.

“I said: ‘How do you feel? How’s your arm? How’s your legs?’” Nail told the Winston-Salem Journal. “He said: ‘I’m fine.’ I said: ‘Let’s go get ‘em.’ (Hartle) wanted it. He’s our horse, so we stayed with him. Should we have pulled him and brought in (Will) Rice earlier? You can always second-guess yourself; that’s part of the game. But I still would have done the same thing I did.”

Bowles and Chandler fell behind 1-2 and 0-2 in the count, respectively. Yet both seized the moment in pressure-packed situations, with Bowles blooping a single over short and Chandler mashing a game-tying single to left that chased Hartle.

By going 2 for 3, Bowles raised his hitting streak to six games and his average to .380.

“Hunter knows his role (as the No. 9 batter),” Rudisill said. “He knows what type of hitter he is. The key has been him not trying to do too much and be a power guy. He’s been huge for us.”

Chandler has been sensational after starting 0 for 8 in the first three games. Since then he’s hit .412 across 18 games, including two hits against Hartle. He’s at .366 for the year with a seven-game hit streak.

“Garrett had been having great at-bats,” Rudisill said. “They had been pitching him backward with the breaking ball early in the count. They went back to the breaking ball and Garrett was able to stay on it. He’s got all the tools in the world to be a great player. His thing early on was mental. Once he got past that, he’s been really steady.”

Rice replaced Hartle and promptly struck out the first War Eagle he faced, but he walked Williams to load the bases. Then he hit Whisenhunt in the foot with a 1-1 curveball, a hit by pitch that forced in the tiebreaking run. While Reagan looked like it had swallowed a porcupine, Davie fans were going wild.

“It was a curveball and it broke later than the first one he threw to me,” Whisenhunt told the Journal after getting his team-high 17th walk/HBP. “It hit me in the big toe. I struggled getting down to first base. It hurts, but I’ll just ice it and it’ll be fine.”

Whisenhunt finished off Reagan in 1-2-3 fashion in the bottom of the seventh, ending Davie’s four-game losing streak in the series and setting up the blockbuster matchup at Davie.

“We were definitely going head to head,” Whisenhunt told the Journal. “(Hartle) was getting ahead in the counts. I had a few more balls here and there, but I battled through and ended up getting it done.”

Although Reagan blew a golden opportunity, it only needed a split. “I told them nothing’s lost,” Nail told the Journal. “Don’t hang your head. We get another shot Thursday.”

Notes: Davie outhit Reagan 6-2. Williams had a hit and two walks. Shelton had a hit. … Rudisill said there were “8-10 college commitments in that game.” Davie’s future college players are Shelton (Radford), Whisenhunt (ECU), Chandler (ECU), Campbell (Lenior-Rhyne) and Cheek (Montreat). “We’re about to have more,” he said. “Reagan has two ECU commits, Wake Forest, Florida. It was a very good win with the caliber of talent that was on the field.”