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NC offense erupts as Faulkenberry gets first victory

Posted: March 12, 2018 3:53 p.m.
Updated: March 13, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

KIM BLACKMON GETS A hug from North Central head baseball coach Brandon Faulkenberry after she threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Knights’ 14-8 win over visiting Crestwood last Wednesday night.

With the opening night jitters out of their system, the North Central baseball team gave first-year head coach Brandon Faulkenberry his initial victory at his alma mater with a 14-8 win over visiting Crestwood last Wednesday night in Boonetown.

The big night started with Kim Blackmon throwing out the ceremonial first pitch for the chilly home opener.

After having lost to rival Andrew Jackson, 12-0, in last Monday’s opening contest, the Knights pounded out 14 runs on 11 hits against the 4A visitors from Sumter County who jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a pair of runs in the opening frame.

“We were able to barrel the ball up and they had guys struggle finding the strike zone,” Faulkenberry said as to his team’s offensive production. “Once we got a big lead, though, we started to relax, made some mental mistakes and let them get back into the game before we scored four late runs to close it out.”

The hosts scored four runs in the home half of the first and tacked on a pair in the second to grab a 6-2 advantage which they would not surrender.

In the home portion of the first, Tyler Faulkenberry drew a one-out walk with two gone. A dropped third strike allowed Chance Mangum to get aboard which allowed Faulkenberry to score from third base. Mangum went to third on a Wesley Roberts single while Mangum and Roberts each came across on passed balls. Dalton Truesdale, who walked, then scored on an error to make it 4-2.

An inning later, Cody Faulkenberry led off with a single to right and later scored on a Tyler Faulkenberry fielders’ choice. Tyler Faulkenberry made it 6-2 when he came home on Cam Holley’s single to left.

The visiting Knights scored a run in both the third and fourth frames to cut the deficit to 6-4 before NC scored four in its half of the fourth which opened with Christian Bowers taking second on a one-out, two-base error. Austin Bowers then delivered an RBI double to left and scored on a Tyler Faulkenberry single. Holley, who is playing with a labrum injury suffered during basketball season, followed with a single with Tyler Faulkenberry scoring on a passed ball while Holley came in on a Truesdale single to right.

NC went on top, 14-6, after scoring four more runs in the fifth. A Christian Bowers leadoff single to right was followed by an Austin Bowers single to right. Tyler Faulkenberry’s two-run double to center was next with Faulkenberry coming in on a passed ball. Holley, who walked, scored on Truesdale’s double to left center.

Austin Bowers, Tyler Faulkenberry and Holley, who bat in the first through third holes, respectively, in the order for NC, collected two hits each with Faulkenberry, a junior, plating four runs.

Austin Bowers went the first four frames to get the mound win. He fanned seven while walking a pair before giving way to Chance Mangum, who went the final three innings. “I thought Austin Bowers did a good job for us on the mound in this game,” Faulkenberry said.

“It was a good win and a positive game after opening the season with a loss to AJ.,” he added.

Two nights later, the Knights ran into a buzz saw in the form of a strong Robert E. Lee Academy squad which took NC down, 10-2, on Friday night.

“Robert E. Lee can play. They are very good again this year,” Faulkenberry said of the Bishopville entry. “They can really swing the bats.”

The Knights hurt themselves with six errors while getting five hits, three of which came off the bat of Austin Bowers. Mangum, NC’s senior first baseman/pitcher, drove in the only run for the hosts.

Faulkenberry said, after three games, Mangum has had nothing but tough luck at the plate which, the first-year NC coach said, will change.

“Chance has really barreled some balls up so far for us this year. He is hitting line drives but they are right at people,” he said. “Those hits are going to start falling for him, though, as well as he is hitting it.”Faulkenberry also praised the effort of catcher Josh Morris who is doing a good job of keeping pitches in front of him.The Knights have a young squad to go along with a new head coach. What Faulkenberry likes from his group is the attitude which they bring to each practice and game. That, he said, will pay off before too long.“Even in the loss to AJ,” he said, “our kids never got down on themselves. They stayed positive the whole game.“This is a great group of kids. They are relaxed, they make plays when they need to and we are getting hits when we have runners in scoring position. And our pitchers have done a good job of limiting walks and making people work to get on base.”The Knights have a pair of Region 4-AA games this week. On Tuesday, they head to Bishopville to meet Lee Central in a 6 p.m. start before hosting a strong Cheraw squad Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Boonetown.

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