Usually, people give you presents on your birthday. Monday night, birthday boy John Bowers gave a gift to the North Central baseball team and their fans.
Bowers, a junior first baseman who was moved into the cleanup slot in the batting order for this game, sent a 1-2 fastball into right field for a game-ending two-run double to lift the Knights to a 5-4 win over visiting Camden Military Academy on Senior Night in Boonetown.
The victory was the first in three tries for NC over the Spartans which had won the previous two meetings this season, including one in a pre-season tournament.
“I was real proud of our guys’ effort,” said Knights’ head coach Robbie Cash. “We did a great job of staying in the game after having had a week off. Our guys responded real well.”
Nobody, though, answered the call like Bowers.
With the Knights trailing, 4-2, heading into the bottom of the seventh, the hosts got off to a good start in their final at-bat as Broderick Gaither, who was moved back to the leadoff slot for his final regular season home game, drew a walk. Tyler Bowers followed with a single to left before Cam Holley singled and when CMA misplayed the ball, it allowed Gaither to come in to make it 4-3.
John Bowers would then come to the plate with runners on first and second and no outs as Cash signaled for the bunt. Bowers’ second strike bunt landed foul as he was then asked to hit away. He did just that, lining a double into the alley in right center as Tyler Bowers scored easily from second while Holley went from first to home with the winning run.
“John just barreled up a 1-2 fastball after his bunt went foul,” Cash said. “(CMA) had been playing us shallow in the outfield all night and John drove it over their heads.”
The Knights jumped to a quick 1-0 lead when Tyler Bowers sent a solo home run to right field. The blast was the sophomore’s 100th career hit, which is nine shy of Grayson King’s school mark of 109.
CMA knotted things with a run in the top of the second as Eric Stromme drew a leadoff walk, was balked to second and scored on a Davis Lord single. NC went on top, 2-1, with a run in the home half of the second when Alex Tarlton roped a leadoff double to left and came in from there on a Stephen Barrett single to right.
The Spartans got to NC starter Paul Blackwell for two in the third. Brandon Jackson led off with a single and was bunted over to second by Max Bryan. With two gone, Cody Kaminer walked and the pair scored on a double to left center off the bat of Matt Fullen.
An inning later, the guests tacked on another run to take a 4-2 lead as Ian Benton doubled to left center and later scored on Xavier Anderson’s double to left center.
Led by two hits each from John Bowers and Holley, the Knights out-hit CMA, 9-5.
“I was pleased with our hitting,” Cash said. “But there were a couple times where we didn’t come through in the clutch when we could have scored some more runs in this game. But our guys are working hard and it’s not due to a lack of effort.”
Gaither, who delivered his 97th career hit in the win, worked a scoreless seventh to get the mound victory while getting a comebacker to start a game-ending double play.
The Knights, whose playoff destiny would be decided following Tuesday’s game at Fairfield Central, turned three double plays on the night while not committing an error in the field. That was something which Cash was looking for to get from his team as theyprepare for the postseason.
“We didn’t have any errors and that is because of our guys’ working on their defense in practice,” he said. “But our pitchers did issue five walks and we had a couple fly balls that were hit over outfielders’s heads. That’s something we have to keep working on.”