North baseball edges Ellis, loses in finals

Published 2:13 pm Tuesday, May 16, 2023

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Blake French clubbed a tape-measure homer and North Davie’s baseball team erased a four-run deficit and escaped an 8-7 barnburner against Ellis in the conference tournament semifinal.

The second-seeded Wildcats took the rubber match between the teams. Ellis was the third seed. The game, held at North on May 2, ended after six innings because of a two-hour time limit.

The Jaguars roared to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first, but North had a 7-5 lead in the fifth after French unloaded a three-run homer to left-center. It was the fifth long ball of the season for French, who went 3 for 4 with a double, two runs and four RBIs.

“We thought about walking him (intentionally), but they had two on,” Ellis coach Mike Dinkins said. “You second-guess yourself all the time as a coach.”

The Jaguars, though, did not roll over. Landon Hughes’ sixth-inning hit tied the game at 7. It looked like they would take the lead, but North left fielder Reynolds Tomlinson threw out a runner at home for the third out of the sixth.

“Everybody thought it was over (after French’s homer),” Dinkins said.

North answered right back in its final at-bat. With one out, Mack Ridenhour singled to right. Wade Ridenhour entered to pinch run for his brother, and he advanced to second on a passed ball. With two outs, Tanner Steinour came through with a walk-off hit.

“Fans got their money’s worth,” North coach Trevor Gooch said. “Both teams played hard and were resilient. I told our kids before the game a quote from Babe Ruth: ‘It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.’”

Jack Greer went 2 for 3 for North, which got one hit from Ian Patton (1-3), M. Ridenhour (1-3) and Steinour (1-4). Hayden Potts walked three times and scored three runs.

The winning pitcher was North’s fourth arm of the day, Ty Sain, who recorded the final two outs. He came in after Patton, Alex Bowles and Noah Potts covered the first 5.1 innings.

“Some unsung heroes were Alex, Noah and Ty, who pitched out of some jams,” Gooch said.

Meanwhile, it was another painful loss for the Jaguars, who finished 9-3.

“We lost three ballgames by a total of four runs,” Dinkins said. “It was a tough way to lose. We’re so evenly matched. It could have gone either way.”

Brandon Forrest paced Ellis’ offense with two hits in three at-bats, two runs, a walk and a double. Ellis got one hit from Hughes (1-2, two RBIs, two walks), Jackson Rathbone (1-2), Wesley Davis (1-3), Dashel Desnoyers (1-3), Bowman Blakely (1-4, two RBIs) and Easton Sanders (1-4). Colin Harrison had two walks and two runs.

WCA 5, ND 3

In the championship game at top-seeded Wesleyan Christian Academy on May 4, the Wildcats scored the first three runs. But the euphoria from beating Ellis and jumping on Wesleyan disappeared in the bottom of the fourth, when the Trojans did all of their scoring.

Yep, one bad inning doomed North as it settleed for runner-up.

North took control by scoring two in the second and one in the third. Ty Greene carried a shutout into the fourth, when North came off the rails.

“It was a tough loss,” Gooch said after his team finished 11-4. “Our kids came to play, but we failed to get a big hit when men on base. Our relief pitchers (Bowles and Potts) kept us in the game, but we could not generate any offense in the late innings.”

Bowles and Potts combined for 3.1 scoreless innings. Potts (1-3), M. Ridenhour (1-2) and Bowles (1-1) had the only hits for North.

Gooch saw eight eighth graders wear the North uniform for the last time: Steinour, French, Potts, Sain, Greene, M. Ridenhour, Patton and Bowles.