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King, Knights keep Bulldogs in check, 6-3

Posted: April 3, 2012 2:36 p.m.
Updated: April 4, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Like having to dig through the cereal box to get your prize, North Central found what it was looking for --- and needed --- in the bottom third of its batting order.
On a night in which the first six Knight batters went a collective 2-for-20 at the plate, the seventh through ninth men in the order went 4-for-9 as a group, while scoring three runs and driving in a pair in Monday’s 6-3 win over host Camden in the Telasco Alarm Service Camden Spring Break Tournament.
The loss snapped a seven-game win streak for the Bulldogs, who fell to 10-6 overall. North Central, which was coming off a 13-0 Friday night loss to Chesterfield, improved to 6-8 on the season.
The win victory a sweet one for third-year NC head coach and 1990 Camden High graduate and former Bulldog pitcher/first baseman Robbie Cash, who sent his team’s ace, Grayson King, to the mound against his alma mater.
All King would do was to work into the seventh inning while picking up his fourth win in six decisions this season. The junior allowed two third-inning runs while scattering five hits and fanning 11 Bulldog batters on the night.
As much of a story as King was, in many ways, this game belonged to J.P. Faulkenberry. Batting in the eight hole, the 6-foot-4 junior helped to ignite what became a four-run top of the fifth for the Knights with a booming RBI double to left to drive in Parker Jones with the first NC run of the game off CHS freshman starter Sam Powers.
Faulkenberry was the only player from either side to have a two-hit night as he singled in the sixth. But it was his two-bagger an inning earlier which sent a surge of electricity through the Knights’ third base dugout.
“That was huge,” Cash said of Faulkenberry’s shot to the fence in left in the fifth. “We needed something to get us going there. J.P’s been working hard on Sundays by going out and hitting on his own. He finally cued one up. That was probably as hard a ball as you will see hit here.”
Powers used his off-speed pitches and fastball in keeping the NC batters confused through the first four frames. The righty took a one-hitter with four punch outs into the fateful fifth which opened with designated hitter Parker Jones leading off the NC portion of the frame by dropping in an opposite field single to right.
“I had a hunch about Parker and started him at DH today. Parker’s been hitting the ball well in practice,” Cash said.
Faulkenberry then unloaded on his double, which sent Jones scurrying around the bases with the Knights’ first run. Anthony Spinelli then laid down a sacrifice bunt on which CHS could not make a play and the error put runners on the corners with no outs. Spinelli then took a running lead off first as Powers stepped off the mound and chased down the NC base runner. His tight-quartered throw to second baseman Jalen Rice went into shallow right field as Faulkenberry scored to even things while Spinelli was safe at second.
Broderick Gaither kept inning alive with a walk. With one gone, King’s grounder was booted for an error, allowing Spinelli to come in from second while Gaither went to third on the play. Gaither would make it a 4-2 game on Ryan Baker’s sacrifice fly to right.
By the end of the inning, the Knights had scored four runs on two hits while taking advantage of three Bulldog errors which led to five extra bases being taken by the visitors.
“The inning they got four runs,” CHS head coach Denny Beckley said, “we had a couple of suspect defensive plays. But they hit the ball hard, too. You have to give them a lot of credit. They hit some good shots at us tonight. You just have to tip your hat to them.”
NC added another run in the sixth. Powers gave up a one-out walk to Raijon Jones, who would score on the second of consecutive singles off the bats of Faulkenberry and then, pinch-hitter Kazuma Miyagawa, who cue-balled a roller which died some 15 feet from the plate as Jones came home with fifth run. That would be Powers’ final batter as Nick Tucker came on to record an inning-ending strikeout leaving runners on second and third.
Cash said it took one time through the order for his players to make adjustments against Powers. The righty got the start when Camden’s rotation was altered due to an ankle injury to Will Hough, who is expected to be out for another week, if not longer.
“We were popping it up against him because we were impatient,” Cash said of his team’s early struggles against Powers. “We didn’t have a scouting report on him; we didn’t know what he was going to throw. We just had a better feel for him and his pitches after the first time through.”
Beckley had nothing but praise for his young starter, who lost his first varsity contest in two decisions. “I thought Sam threw really well. Sam’s a guy who has a lot of poise. The one big inning really hurt us. It gave them the momentum and then, they took that and ran with it,” he said.
NC tacked on a sixth run in the seventh when Tyler Bowers drove a leadoff shot which to right which landed him on second. After taking third on a wild pitch, he scored on King’s double.
Carrying a four-run cushion into the bottom of the seventh, things got dicey for the Knights as King issued a leadoff walk to Darius Smith before Cole Irick and Jake Ansley singled, the latter cutting the deficit to 6-3 while chasing King from the box in favor of Gaither.
The lefty reliever got out of the mess by first getting a strikeout and then, taking a Ross Hough liner to the box off his chest and then, doubling up Irick at second to end the game.
The only other time the Dogs were able to get to King came with two gone in the third when he hit Irick in the head with an off-speed pitch. After Irick stole second, Ansley was given an intentional pass to first before Kevin Collins got on via a walk. Ross Hough then lined a single through to box to drive in the game’s first two runs before King avoided further trouble with an inning-ending ground out.
“Grayson came out and did a good job,” Cash said of King’s performance. “Last week, he threw an inning against C.A. Johnson and then against Chesterfield, we were out of the game early so I didn’t pitch him for but an inning. He seemed like the logical guy to go with today. I just gave him the ball, which Grayson always wants, and he went out there and did his job.
“The two runs they got were the result of walks and a hit batter. After that inning, Grayson came in and said, ‘That (inning) was on me.’ We also did a good job on defense behind him. He did a good job, like a front line starter should.”
NC struggled with the glove so badly in Friday’s loss to Chesterfield that Cash had his team practicing in Boonetown before hitting the bus for Camden. NC committed just one error in the field in 13 chances.
Beckley gave no excuses for his team’s play or not having Will Hough available. “We were very confident in the guys we had out there … they just beat us,” he said before giving a tip of the cap to King.
“Grayson did a great job. He had some good velocity and I was impressed with his slider,” Beckley said. “He did a really good job of keeping us off-balance.
“We did a decent job against him, but it just wasn’t at the right time. At the end of the game, we got to him a little bit when he got tired.”

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