Defensive mistakes cost varsity baseball

Published 5:07 pm Tuesday, June 1, 2021

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

It wasn’t just that Davie lost that had varsity baseball coach Bradley Rudisill disappointed – hey, this is the Central Piedmont Conference, where most games are essentially a tossup – but it was the way this 5-2, five-inning setback unfolded.

From the home team’s perspective, the War Eagles pretty much gift-wrapped it. They committed four errors. By contrast, visiting East Forsyth played mistake-free defense. They wasted a bases-loaded, one-out opportunity. They left the bases loaded again late in the game.

The May 25 contest was marred by lightning delays. The first delay came at 9 p.m., the game not resuming until 10:30. The second stoppage came in the sixth inning at 11:19. East scored three in the top of the sixth to push its lead to 8-2, but since Davie did not complete its at-bat in the bottom half, the game reverted to five innings.

While East improved to 7-3 overall, Davie slipped to 5-4. The decision lifted East into a second-place tie with Davie at 5-2, two games behind first-place Reagan.

“Our defense was not very good,” Rudisill said. “We dropped routine popups. It didn’t help that we left the bases loaded twice.”

Davie banged out eight hits in four innings off 6-4 sophomore Braxton Stewart, who compensated by walking one and striking out seven. But only one of the hits was fruitful, that coming during a fourth-inning rally off the bat of Jack Reynolds, who had a breakout game.

“We were on (Stewart) the whole game,” Rudisill said. “We were one or two hits from taking control of the game, and we’re one or two (defensive) plays from it being a 2-2 game. It was a tough one.”

Davie got what it expected from pitcher Zach Rodgers. He gave up five hits in five innings, walked one and threw 60 of 91 offerings for strikes. He was betrayed by Davie’s gloves – three of East’s official runs were unearned – as the senior’s three-wins-in-three-starts streak came to an end.

“Zach pitched his tail off,” Rudisill said. “He did everything that he needed to. Zach was focussed after the long break.”

In the first, East quickly took control with a single, a bunt hit and a walk. Back-to-back groundouts plated runs.

Davie had a prime chance to erase East’s 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Blake Little, Reynolds and Reed Cunningham had singles to load the bases with one out. A strikeout and flyout, though, got Stewart off the hook.

Davie’s defensive shortcomings came in the third and fourth. In the third, there were two errors in the outfield, and a run scored on a passed ball. In the fourth, the first batter reached on another error in the outfield. He would come around to score as East’s lead grew to 5-0.

Then the game was delayed for 90 minutes. When Davie came out of the locker room for the last of the fourth, it caught fire. Parker Aderhold fouled off a two-strike pitch before getting a hit. Justin Collins walked on four pitches. Wesley Mason singled on a two-strike offering to load the bases with nobody out. Two outs later, it was still 5-0 with the bases loaded.

That’s when Reynolds gave Davie hope. After fouling off five pitches, he laced a two-run double.

“Braxton left a curveball up in the zone and Jack finally turned it around,” Rudisill said.

Davie was looking for more. Davin Whitaker was plunked to reload the bases. Another hit and it’s likely 5-4. Didn’t happen.

Still, Davie was within striking distance with a lot of baseball to play – if it could get Mother Nature to cooperate. Mason, the left fielder, gunned down a runner at home for the third out of the East fifth to keep the deficit at 5-2.

But that defensive gem did not spark another rally. Davie went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fifth. Then East broke it open in the top of the sixth. Then the lightning was followed by rain, and the sixth was ultimately wiped out of the official stats.

“If we would have waited out the last lightning strike, we would have started back after 12 o’clock after everybody warms up again,” Rudisill said. “We wanted to get it in, but …”

Notes: The hits were even (8-8). … In one big night, Reynolds (3 for 3) raised his average 115 points to .272. … Mason extended his hot streak by going 2 for 2. Hitting safely in seven of eight games, the junior speedster was leading the team in average (.500), runs (nine), hits (12, tied with Little) and stolen bases (eight). … Little (1-3 on the night, .387 season average) got at least one hit for the eighth time in nine games. … East was coming off 5-0 and 27-11 losses to Reagan. In the insane 38-run game, East jumped to a 7-0 lead in the top of the first, only to watch Reagan put up 17 in the bottom half.