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Late Knight rally comes up short

Posted: April 4, 2018 5:24 p.m.
Updated: April 6, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

NORTH CENTRAL THIRD BASEMAN Wesley Roberts prepares to clamp down on this foul ball in the second inning of Wednesday's game with South Aiken.

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An emotional letdown following a late-night win over rival Camden on Tuesday? Possibly. Brandon Faulkenberry was not about to use that as excuse, though.

Faulkenberry, the first-year head baseball coach at North Central, simply chalked up his team’s 7-3 loss to South Aiken in Wednesday’s third round of the Kershaw-Richland Wooden Bat Tournament as a cased of missed chances.

On the afternoon following their 5-4 win over Camden, the Knights could do nothing with Thoroughbred starter Cody Boynton, who shut NC down for six innings. The SA right-hander received all the run support he would need from freshman first baseman Jesse Sanders who, after two quiet days, exploded in the matinee contest with an RBI triple in the first inning and a three-run shot to right in the second as he knocked home four of the home team’s first six runs.

It would have been easy for NC starter Chance Mangum to have pitched around the 6-foot-3 Sanders. Instead, he wanted to go after him and was given the green light by Faulkenberry.

“We were going to go at him, there was no reason not to in a tournament,” Faulkenberry said. “We knew he was a good hitter. Chance wanted to throw to him and he just unleashed on a couple of them and, it hurt us.”

On the mound, Boynton had his way with the Knights. The right-hander allowed three hits in his stint which included four strikeouts. He was also helped along by his defense which turned a pair of around the horn double plays behind him in an error-free contest.

“(Boynton) didn’t do anything special but, he threw a lot of strikes,” Faulkenberry said. “He was a bigger kid and, at times, we looked over-matched.

“He spotted his pitches pretty well but we had too many miss hits with runners on base early on. That has been the story of our season, so far.”

NC let Boynton off the hook in the first two innings, leaving a runner on third in the opening frame and a man on second in the second. The Knights would not advance a runner beyond first base after that, until the top of the seventh against lefty reliever Sebastion O’Banion.

NC catcher Josh Morris greeted O’Banion by hustling his way for a double to shallow left on a play in which he took third on a throwing error to the second base bag. He would then score the first NC run on a passed ball after the second hit of the day for the senior catcher who took a liking to swinging a wood bat.

“It gave us some confidence hitting the ball,” Faulkenberry said of the four-day switch to the traditional wood bats. “Josh Morris probably had as many hits as he’s had all season just in this tournament alone.”

Cody Faulkenberry re-ignited the seventh inning rally with a walk which was followed by a Dalton Truesdale double. An Austin Bowers single to left drove in Faulkenberry before a Cam Holley single plated Truesdale to make it 7-3 with NC runners on first and second with no outs. O’Banion righted his own ship, however, getting a foul ball out and a strikeout to end the affair.

While the Knights did not quit, they were forced to play catch-up as a D.J. Ludwick one-out single in the first was followed by Sanders’ triple to the fence in right. Sanders then made it 2-0 when he came in on A.J. Deibel’s single to center off Mangum.

Faulkenberry hoped that Mangum, a senior righty, would be able to throw the T-breds’ timing off with his off-speed pitches. It worked in several instances, save for Sanders.

“Chance left a couple balls up that they didn’t miss,” said the NC head coach. “When he works down in the zone, Chance can be effective with his velocity.”

In the second, consecutive one-out singles from Ned Keough and Corley Cheeks set the table for Sanders who sent a high-arching shot beyond the fence in left to put SA on top, 6-0.

The T-breds made it 7-0 with a solo run in the fifth as Sam Swygert sent a triple to the gap in right center which brought in Sanders, who got aboard with a leadoff walk.

SA banged out 10 hits on the afternoon with six of those coming in the first two innings.

The Knights, who did not commit an error in the field after having made five in the victory over Camden, finished the night with seven hits with four of those coming in the top of the seventh. Morris and Holley had a pair of hits each with Holley also driving in a run.

“We played pretty good defense today … there were a couple balls that we need to catch to limit the scoring,” Faulkenberry said of his team’s effort against the 4A Thoroughbreds.

“We had a couple people who barreled the ball up,” he added. “We broke a lot of wood bats but once we start to sit back on pitches, we’ll be fine.”

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