Davie recaptures magic with semifinal win

Published 1:46 pm Tuesday, May 9, 2023

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

This was a weird Central Piedmont Conference season in baseball.

Davie finished ahead of Glenn in the standings, but Glenn beat Davie twice. East Forsyth finished first, but in the final week of the regular season, West Forsyth beat East twice.

Yep, sometimes baseball makes no sense. Going into April 25, the War Eagles were in second by themselves as they prepared to face an opponent (Glenn) it had defeated in nine of the previous 10 meetings. But then they lost twice to Glenn in a span of seven days, tumbling from second to fourth. After getting crushed 12-2 by Glenn on April 25, the Bobcats edged Davie 5-4 in Kernersville on May 1 to close the regular season.

The War Eagles were fading. The losses to Glenn were going to haunt them for the rest of the season, right? Not exactly. Two days later, Davie eased the sting by knocking off highly-ranked East Forsyth in the CPC Tournament semifinals. Whew.

But before that unforgettable moment, Davie fell in a game that could have gone either way against Glenn.

“We had two base-running mistakes and two errors at the wrong time,” coach Joey Anderson said. “We lost another one by one run (for the fourth time this season).”

Glenn coach Keith Walker was able to use his ace, senior Peyton Kowalski, against Davie for the second time, but Davie let the righthander off the hook in the top of the first. Coy James and Parker Simmons were on base with nobody out, and after Brady Marshall walked, it had bases loaded with one out. Kowalski got out of it unscathed thanks to back-to-back strikeouts.

After Glenn scored two unearned runs in the bottom of the first, Davie got one back on Simmons’ sac fly in the second. Davie starter Braeden Rodgers worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the second, and Parker Aderhold’s hit plated Davin Whitaker and tied the game in the third.

In the Glenn third, the Bobcats regained a 4-2 lead by putting together four hits. Davie wasted James’ triple in the fourth, but it rallied in the fifth. Doubles by Whitaker and Aderhold were followed by singles from Jackson Sink and Cooper Bliss, and now it was 4-4.

Singles by Ty Miller in the sixth and Sink in the seventh did not amount to anything, and Glenn decided the outcome in the bottom of the seventh. After back-to-back singles and a successful double steal, Davie was in serious trouble. After an intentional walk loaded the bases, a flyout to center fielder Whitaker wasn’t deep enough for the runner at third to tag. Davie reliever Connor Berg had two strikes on the next batter, but sophomore Brayden Winters singled and Glenn walked it off.

The loss cut like a knife. The CPC standings wound up like this: East Forsyth 11-3, Reagan/West Forsyth 10-4, Davie 9-5, Glenn 8-6, Reynolds 6-8, Mt. Tabor 2-12, Parkland 0-14. Fourth hurt because second was at Davie’s fingertips a few days earlier.

“They were able to throw their ace against us twice,” Anderson said. “Would it have been different if we’d seen their No. 2? We’ll never know.”

Notes: Davie outhit Glenn 11-10. Getting two hits were James (2-3, walk), Whitaker (2-4, two doubles), Aderhold (2-4, two RBIs) and Sink (2-3). … Rodgers only gave up two earned runs in five innings. Berg pitched the final 1.1 innings. … Kowalski didn’t get out of the fifth, but Glenn reliever Jacob Fraas picked up the slack by holding Davie scoreless for 2.1 innings. … After hitting a shade over .400 as a freshman, James has taken his offensive game to another level, leaving Kernersville at .476. The triple was his 15th extra-base hit. “He’s not getting many fastballs, but he’s making the adjustments that he needs to,” Anderson said.

Davie 5, EF 4

The War Eagles responded from the Glenn disappointments in remarkable fashion. They recaptured their magic from March 16-April 13, when they went 4-1 against East Forsyth/Reagan/West Forsyth, and pulled out a wild one against East in the CPC Tournament semifinals on May 3. Davie hosted both semifinal games and the final.

What a thrill it was to knock off East for the second time. East, which has 14 seniors, is 1-2 against Davie and 19-2 against everybody else.

“Parker Simmons sent out something about the Washington Nationals and their run to the World Series (title) in (2019), and it stuck with some of the guys,” Anderson said.

Senior Braxton Stewart singled on an 0-2 pitch to give top-seeded East a 1-0 lead in the first.

In the second, Marshall reached on an error and stole second. Two pitches later, Drew Krause singled on a two-strike pitch to tie the game. Later in the game, the sophomore catcher and budding star singled on a 3-2 pitch. He would go 3 for 3 on the day.

In the third, Simmons’ single and Whitaker’s double lifted Davie in front 3-1. In the fifth, East rallied to 3-3 by roping two triples and a double.

On the mound, Jaydon Holder did solid work for five innings. The senior lefty scattered seven hits, walked two, struck out six, threw 53 strikes in 82 pitches and held East to three runs. But a reliever, Cole Whitaker, who had only worked 13.2 innings all year deservers major credit. With two on and two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Whitaker struck out senior Josh Herbert on three pitches to keep the score 3-3. He ended up getting the win.

“Jaydon mixed it up real well and attacked them,” Anderson said. “Cole did a real good job of staying within himself. It was probably a huge confidence-booster for him. For him to make those kind of pitches to those type of hitters and get those outs, yeah, it was a big deal.”

In the top of the seventh, Krause sparked the winning rally with his third hit of the game. That lifted his average to .355.

“He battled through at-bats,” Anderson said. “He stayed short, he stayed quick and he stayed with the plan.”

Craig McBride entered as the courtesy-runner for the catcher, and he promptly did what he’s known for – he swiped his fifth bag of the year. One out later, Miller legged out a bunt hit to put runners at the corners.

“I said earlier: ‘If they’re going to play you back, you have to give that a look,’” Anderson said. “It was a great decision by Ty at that point in time. The kid was playing way back. That was the turning point in the game. When they’re thinking on their own and I’m not having to do anything, that’s a great feeling.”

Miller flipped the batting order to the top with one out, and on an 0-2 pitch, James dumped the tiebreaking hit into shallow right. That told us what we already knew: That’s the guy Davie wants up in big situations. Later in the inning, Miller scored an insurance run on a wild pitch.

“It was right behind the first baseman, it was out of the reach of the second baseman and out of the reach of the right fielder,” Anderson said of James’ hit. “It just fell perfect. You could tell they didn’t want Coy to beat them, but he battled in that at-bat.”

Up 5-3, Davie hung on for dear life in the bottom of the seventh. With the tying run at first and one out, Luke Boone sent a grounder up the middle. James dove to his left, popped up, touched second and fired to first for a game-ending double play.

It was euphoric.

“East is a very good team,” Anderson said. “What they’ve done this year is great, but the great thing about baseball is anybody can win on any day. We capitalized on their (two) errors and we played flawlessly besides one error. When we throw strikes and play good defensively, we can compete with pretty much anybody.”

Notes: Davie’s speed was big reason for the win. It stole four bases, raising his average to 2.8 per game. James and Whitaker are the SB leaders with 12 each. … Facing Ethan Norby for seven innings made the win all the more impressive. The senior lefty walked one and struck out nine. He has signed with East Carolina. … Davie improved to 14-9. … After losing 5-1 to Davie in March, East (20-4) won 13 straight. But it left this game with a three-game losing streak.