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Knights lock down second place in 3-AA with 9-2 victory over Griffins

Posted: April 17, 2013 4:33 p.m.
Updated: April 19, 2013 5:00 a.m.

There was a rush to get everything done for senior night. After that, the buzzword for North Central was patience.
Hosting Fairfield Central in a game which would decide second place in Region 3-AA, the Knights used a strong pitching performance from Grayson King, which was backed by eight hits as the hosts earned a first round state playoff home game with a 9-2 victory over the Griffins in Boonetown Tuesday night.
The win capped an 8-2 conference season for Robbie Cash’s troops who improved to 12-6-1 overall heading into Wednesday’s regular season-ending doubleheader with Buford.
Before getting to Tuesday’s second meeting between the two sides, you need to go back to March 22 in Winnsboro. On that cold night, NC needed to score a run in the top of the seventh off Compton Walker to break a 2-2 tie and then, have King work a scoreless bottom of the seventh as the Knights left town with a 3-2 win over the Griffins.
In that first meeting, King allowed two hits while Walker was scuffed for three as the two right-handers both went the distance. In Walker’s case, his second head-to-head pairing with King did not go anything like the first as the FC junior worked 4.1 innings of six-hit ball while being tagged for nine runs.
The difference in NC’s approach at the plate on Tuesday was simple.
“We were patient and we got some good swings against (Walker) tonight,” Cash said. “We had a patient approach and hit the ball up the middle and (to the) backside. Some of our middle hitters did a good job.
“We really focused on hitting the ball down today; we didn’t have a lot of pop-ups.  And, we got some hitter’s counts; 2-1, 3-1 and 3-2. We were never in 0-1 or 0-2; we were able to put the ball in play on those counts.”
This one did not start getting out of hand until the hosts broke things open with a four-run fourth to pad what was a 2-1 lead to 6-1. A three-run fifth put a bit more icing on the cake in a contest which looked to mirror the first pairing through the first three and one-half frames.
It took one swing of the bat to swing the momentum into the NC dugout. And that hit was courtesy of a leadoff home run to open the fourth by Knights’ leadoff man, Broderick Gaither. The junior pulled a Walker offering and sent a screaming liner, which just cleared the top of the fence in right, for his second home run of the season givinghis team a 3-1 lead while allowing the home crowd to breathe a bit easier.
 “Finally, finally, we got somebody to put a big stoke in the fire for us,” said Cash, who said he thought his team would hit more home runs than it has this season. “Broderick hits one out of here and our fans go crazy.”
NC was not done, yet. With one out, J.P. Faulkenberry was hit by a Walker off-speed offering. Moving to second on a Tyler Bowers ground out, Faulkenberry scored from there on a Jay Williams single to center. Ryan Baker then laced a single to right before Warren Moseley hit a two-run bullet along the left field line for a double to give the Knight a five-run cushion.
“Broderick Gaither has done a great job of setting the tempo for us at the top of the order and, with King, Faulkenberry, Bowers, Williams and Baker behind him, we’ve been successful in that part of the order,” Cash said of the first seven batters on his card on Tuesday.  “And, Moseley was patient, patient, patient in waiting for his pitch and then, he hits the ball down the line.”
The Griffins got one of those runs back in the top of the fifth, using a pair of walks and Victor Beaver’s two-out, run-scoring single to bring in TaQuan Kelly to make it 6-2.
The Knights answered by hanging up a three-spot in its half of the fifth.
Gaither, who got on base all four times and scored three runs on the night, rapped a one-out single through the box and would steal second. King was then hit by a pitch and was lifted in favor of courtesy runner Josh Shropshire. Gaither would score on the second of two wild pitches with Shropshire moving to third base.
When Faulkenberry was hit by another off-speed pitch, it ended Walker’s night on the mound as freshman catcher Brandon Adams came on in relief. Adams got Bowers to ground out to Walker at shortstop, while Shropshire scored to make it 8-2. Faulkenberry capped things when he trotted home from third on Williams’ double to the gap in right center.
Aside from a mess in a top of the first in which FC scored an unearned run and then adding another in the fifth, King was in control as, for the second straight start against the Griffins, he allowed just two hits. This time, the senior fanned nine, including the final four batters he faced, to pick up his eighth win and reach the 100-strikeout plateau for the season.
“Grayson’s been a stud all season and a stud all his career. It was senior night and what a great way for him to go out,” Cash said. “There was a little bit of shakiness in him to start out because we rushed things in trying to get through senior night activities. He was kind of nervous, but he settled down.”
FC scored the game’s first run in the top of the first as leadoff man Jay Cook reached second on a double-error and, after having stolen third base, scored on a botched rundown between third and home against a new-look NC infield.
“We had a situation with a fairly new catcher and a third baseman in the rundown,” Cash said. “Obviously, I need to coach them up a little better on that.”
The Knights evened things in their first at-bat as Gaither drew a leadoff walk, advanced to second on King’s single and scored from there when Baker’s grounder to shortstop was booted for an error.
Gaither and Williams each had two-hit nights for the hosts which honored seven seniors prior to the start of the game on a evening in which seventh-grade second baseman Cam Holley singled in the sixth for his first varsity hit.
“It was a big effort by our seniors, but I plugged some young guys in, at the same time,” Cash said of mixing in the new with the old. “Cam Holley did his job and Stephen Barrett, our freshman shortstop, did his. We have some young guys up the middle.
“We’re playing our best nine guys and, they’re doing the job for us.”
Saying that while his team’s goal of a region championship will have to wait another season, Cash was pleased that the Knights will host next Thursday’s AA state playoff opener; probably, against Cheraw or, if not, Central.
“We’re real excited for our senior class,” he said. “This is the highest finish we’ve had in our conference. Our goal was to finish first, but we’re taking the right steps to get there.
“I hope everybody in Boonetown and everybody in Kershaw County will come out and support us next Thursday, if they can make it. It will be a good brand of baseball out here.”

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