Late rally not enough against East Forsyth
By Brian Pitts
The Davie-East Forsyth baseball showdown in Kernersville on May 27 was an immense game for Davie.
Win and the War Eagles are alone in second place with a chance to win the Central Piedmont Conference outright this week against first-place Reagan.
Lose to East for the second time in three days and the spirit from the 5-1 CPC start is dampened.
The War Eagles nearly pulled one out of the fire in the seventh inning, but their two-out rally died in 3-2 defeat. Now the best they can hope for is help from somebody else and a three-way tie for first.
Entering the final week of the regular season, Reagan is 7-1, East 6-2, Davie 5-3 and West Forsyth 4-4. Interestingly enough, West upset Reagan 5-3 last Thursday.
“We’re going to keep battling,” coach Bradley Rudisill said. “East Forsyth’s coach thinks no matter what (happens this week) we’re going to be in the playoffs.”
East put Davie (5-5 overall) in a hole right off the bat. Two singles were followed by a two-run double by Steele Lee, who also frustrated Davie’s offense on the mound.
After Davie starter Jaydon Holder retired East in the second and third innings on 19 pitches, East manufactured what proved to be a critical run in the fourth. It accomplished it in small-ball fashion. A single was followed by a sac bunt. A bunt hit put runners at the corners. Then came a run-scoring bunt hit.
“They were perfectly-placed bunts,” Rudisill said. “Two of those were near the line. On the other one, (third baseman) Davin (Whitaker) makes an unreal play, but pulls Parker (Aderhold) off the bag. But Davin had to come a long way to field it.”
That was all East (8-3 overall) got against Holder, who was the big key to Davie having a chance to come back. The sophomore scattered 10 hits and was not unnerved by frequent base runners. He fired first-pitch strikes to 19 of 28 batters, covered six innings in 71 pitches and walked one.
“I told him from the get-go you’ve got to be able to pitch with guys on base,” Rudisill said. “We knew they hit fastballs really, really well.”
For six innings, the game was no fun for Davie’s offense. It managed just three hits during that long stretch. Lee, a 6-5 sophomore righthander, walked one, struck out eight and only averaged 11 pitches per inning.
Rudisill bemoaned Davie’s approach at the plate. “He couldn’t throw his curveball for a strike,” he said. “We just chased it in the dirt all night long. If we eliminate that pitch early in the game, he’s probably out of the game in the third inning. We made it easy on him by swinging at the curveball in the dirt. Once we made the adjustment, we hit him hard.”
When the first two batters in the top of the seventh struck out and popped out, Lee had retired 19 of 24 batters. But Davie refused to go quietly. Justin Collins singled. On the next pitch, Beaven Arey hit a ringing double to put runners at second and third.
“We kept telling them that he’s attacking with the fastball,” Rudisill said. “Arey jumped on the fastball and hit a ground-rule double.”
Two pitches later, Josh Westmoreland smoked a single. Collins trotted home. Arey barely scored. Westmoreland advanced to second on the throw home from the left fielder.
Davie was a hit from completing a stunning comeback. Alas, Westmoreland took an aggressive turn around second, the East catcher threw behind him and nailed him as he tried to scamper back to second. It was a 7-2-5-4 putout to end the game.
“It’s hard to fault someone for being aggressive,” third-base coach Joey Anderson said.
“Josh put really good swings on the ball all night,” Rudisill said. “It was good to see him get out of the slump he’d been in. He demolished one over the shortstop’s head.
“The ball got by the catcher. It’s a lot shorter backstop than ours. It was bad luck. Hindsight is 20-20.”
Arey came through with two hits to raise his average from .227 to .280. Blake Little (1-2, walk), Whitaker (1-3), Collins (1-3) and Westmoreland (1-3, two RBIs) had one hit each.
Life in the CPC is one big roller coaster. The wins are sweet; the losses cut deep. Davie’s three league losses are by an aggregate five runs.
“What’s frustrating is we should be going into the Reagan week undefeated in the conference,” Rudisill said.
Notes: Though Wesley Mason went hitless for the first time in four games, he still leads the team with a .444 average. He also leads Davie in runs (nine) and steals (nine). To say he’s come a long way since his freshman year in 2019 would be an understatement. “Wesley is playing great,” Anderson said. “If you would have asked me a couple years ago if he would be in this spot, I would have said: ‘I don’t know.’ It’s exciting to see.” … Whitaker (.428) and Little (.393) are second and third in averages. … Little, who has gotten a hit in nine of 10 games, is first in hits (13) and doubles (four). … Davie did not have Reynolds, who went 3 for 3 with two RBIs in the 5-2 home loss to East, for the game in Kernersville. The lineup shuffle put Trot Byerly in left field. “Trot had some good catches and some good swings on the ball, too,” Rudisill said.