Reagan silences Davie in third round

Published 1:03 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2023

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

A glorious week saw Davie’s baseball team batter Ragsdale (12-1), stun East Forsyth for the third time (8-3) and win two playoff games for the first time since 2012.

But Davie’s dream of making the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2006 died a swift death in a third-round game at Reagan on May 17.

A Raider bombed a two-run homer in the second inning, and that proved to be the only support pitcher Levi Strahm needed as Reagan knocked out Davie 7-1.

Davie, the 18th seed in the West Region, finished 16-11. Reagan, the No. 10 seed, improved to 21-6 and beat Davie for the first time in three tries this season.

Although the War Eagles were silenced by Strahm’s complete-game pitching, they had a prime opportunity to jump ahead in the top of the first inning.

Leadoff man Coy James walked on a 3-2 pitch. The next batter, Parker Simmons, put down a perfect bunt along the first-base line. There was no play. Davie quickly had two on with nobody out and the meat of the order coming up. Alas, James and Simmons were stranded.

Red-hot Davin Whitaker hit a bullet … only to see it go straight to the right fielder. Cleanup man Brady Marshall hit one on the nose, but it was straight to the left fielder. The next man struck out and Strahm was off the hook.

“Sometimes the ball bounces the way you want it to, and sometimes it doesn’t,” coach Joey Anderson said. “Balls that we hit hard got caught. Balls that I thought would fall in got caught. When we had guys on, we weren’t able to capitalize.”

Davie starter Braeden Rodgers cruised in the first but was touched up for two runs in the second. The rally started innocently when Aidan Cluskey singled to left after the first two batters were retired. Then senior Dakota Doll mashed a two-run homer to left-center. That’s considerable pop from the No. 7 spot in the order.

“(Reagan coach Gary Nail) does a good job of spreading them out,” Anderson said. “Up and down the lineup they can be successful. They don’t get to where they’re at right now without swinging the bats.”

Reagan produced two-out lightning again in the third. No. 2 batter Andrew McAllister walked after the first two batters went down. Freshman Jacob Smith singled in the five-six hole. Then Mason Middleton blasted a two-run double to right-center.

“They put good swings on pitches and hit it where we weren’t a lot of times,” Anderson said.

Down 4-0, Davie got on the board in the fourth. Whitaker doubled off the first baseman’s outstretched glove. Parker Aderhold singled to left. Jackson Sink ripped a run-scoring single to right. With a run in and only one out, Davie was looking for more. But back-to-back strikeouts kept Reagan in control at 4-1.

“We just didn’t get that big hit, and sometimes that’s the way baseball is,” Anderson said.

Davie’s last chance to make a run came in the sixth. But after Marshall led off with a walk, center fielder Charlie Stogner dove and robbed Aderhold. With Sink on first and pinch-runner Ty Goodson on second, Drew Krause hit a sinking liner to right. Cluskey could not make a diving catch, but he was able to get the force at second. Then a strikeout ended the inning and kept the score 4-1.

“It’s a game of luck a lot of times. We didn’t have a lot of luck,” Anderson said.

Reagan poured it on in the sixth, scoring three runs on two hits and two walks against three Davie pitchers.

After a shaky start, Strahm was strong, the senior lefty walking two and fanning eight as Reagan atoned for two regular-season losses to Davie (1-0 on March 21 and 2-1 on March 24).

“(Strahm) was able to keep us offbalance,” Anderson said. “He got big outs and they played defense behind him.”

The Raiders only managed four hits over 5.1 innings against Rodgers, and they barely outhit Davie for the night (6-5) – but they were efficient while Davie’s offense fizzled when it had runners on.

It was the continuation of an impressive run by the high-flying Raiders, who won for the 16th time in 17 games.

“I thought Braeden did a good job,” Anderson said after the junior finished with a 6-2 record and 2.41 ERA. “He might have made one mistake (to Doll). But even going into the sixth, he had only given up four hits. He kept us in the game. He gave us a chance.”

The War Eagles have nothing to hang their heads about. In late February, did anyone think they’d go 6-4 against East Forsyth/Reagan/West Forsyth, march into the final 16 in the 4-A playoffs and finish with the most wins in four years?

“These boys played hard and came together,” Anderson said. “I didn’t do them any favors by scheduling some of the teams that I scheduled, but I did that because that’s the kind of competition they needed to see to make it as far as we made it. In most sports, there’s only one team that’s going to be happy at the end of the year. We made strides. This is a special group. They bonded and played well together. To get 16 wins and get to where we haven’t been in 11 years, I’ll take that as a successful season.”

The real-deal James, who recorded the No. 1 freshman average for all-time as a freshman (.409), put up the No. 9 average in Davie history as a sophomore (.451). It’s the No. 1 sophomore average, surpassing Whit Merrifield’s .441 in 2005, and it’s the highest average in 10 seasons (Corey Randall hit .506 in 2012). He became the fourth War Eagle to hit .400 twice, joining Andrew Daywalt, Merrifield and Randall. He posted the most hits (37) since Randall’s 42 in 2012. James and Whitaker had the most triples (five each) for anyone in this century.

The East Carolina-bound Whitaker had a terrific senior season. He knocked in the most runs (25) since Randall’s 28 and Matt Vernon’s 26 RBIs in 2012, and he finished at .363.

Krause performed wonderfully for a sophomore, doing all the catching duties and hitting .356. Simmons got scorching hot after a rough start and hit .307. Marshall, a highly-regarded freshman, drew the most walks/hit by pitches (26) of anyone this century.

Notes: Davie’s five seniors are Sink, Simmons, Jaydon Holder, Aderhold and D. Whitaker. Holder will pitch for Rockingham Community College next year. … In the fourth round, Reagan lost 3-2 in eight innings to Northwest Guilford.