When they first met on March 13, North Central left Buford with a 22-0 loss in a Region 4-AA baseball game stopped in the fifth inning.
Friday night in Boonetown, the third-ranked Yellow Jackets had to score five unanswered runs in the final three frames to escape with a 7-2 win over North Central. The Knights fell to 7-8 overall with the loss and 3-4 in conference play heading into tonight’s 6 p.m. home game with Chesterfield.
Buford scored twice in the top of the first after getting its first two runners aboard on a double and single with each player scoring after NC starter Chase Stephens retired the next three batters on ground outs. Stephens went the first five innings, allowing five runs on four hits against a potent Yellow Jacket offense while earning the praise of his head coach.
"Chase threw the ball great," said NC head coach Robbie Cash. "I can’t say enough about my sophomore right-hander. After their first two guys got on, he really settled down and pitched a great game. I really can’t speak highly enough about his performance."
The Knights evened the count in the bottom of the first as leadoff batter Stephen Barrett rapped a single to left before scoring when Tyler Bowers continued his torrid performance at the plate by cracking a two-run blast to right center. The home run was the third of the season for the junior.
With Stephens getting into a groove, the 2-2 score held through the first four innings. One key was the play of the Knights’ defense, especially Cam Holley at second base, Bowers at shortstop and Barrett behind the plate.
"Defensively," Cash said, "Cam and Tyler made some great plays on balls hit up the middle. And when they got runners on base, Stephen Barrett did a great job of holding their running game at bay."
Buford would score the go-ahead runs with a pair in the fifth before scoring twice in the sixth and adding one more in the seventh to take a five-run lead. The Jackets did their late damage by collecting four of their six hits in the final three frames.
North Central was quiet after the first but threatened in the fifth and sixth in which it left two runners on base on both ocasions.
"When you are playing the number three team in the state," Cash said, "you can’t afford to let scoring opportunities like those pass you by."