It turned out to be a good week after all.
Following Monday’s 3-1 victory over Chesterfield, the North Central baseball team dropped a 7-1 decision to Andrew Jackson on Wednesday. Friday night, against an Indian Land squad which unceremoniously ended the Knights’ season in the AA state playoffs a year ago, Robbie Cash and company gained a measure of revenge while improving to 2-2 in Region 4-AAA play.
Using a four-run bottom of the fourth and a solid pitching performance from starter John Bowers and then, Tyler Bowers North Central rallied from a 4-1 deficit to take a 6-4 win over the visiting Warriors in Boonetown.
The hosts scored first with a run in the home half of the opening frame as Cam Holley led off with a single and went to second on a Tyler Bowers single to right before scoring on John Bowers’ two-out single to left.
Cash said getting a quick run was exactly what his team needed against the Warriors. "It was huge to get something out of that inning because we had to scratch early," he said. "John Bowers got a big base hit to get us going."
In the second inning, the IL coaching staff used a little gamesmanship in calling the umpire over to tell him that the gray coloring at the top of John Bowers’ glove was a distraction. So, after having thrown his warm-up tosses, Bowers was asked to change gloves which delayed the game while unnerving Bowers and his teammates as the visitors scored four runs on three hits and three walks.
"Their coach said that John had a little bit of gray on his glove and waited until the last minute to say something. It rattled John, a little bit," Cash said of the strange scenario in the second. "John had to go to his car and get another glove and they were able to rattle a couple of hits and score all their runs in the second.
NC got a run back in the third when Tyler Bowers unloaded with a one-out solo home run to center field to cut the lead in half. After that, Tyler said, ‘Give me the ball coach.’ And we put him in there."
Tyler Bowers would take over on the mound as the junior right-hander allowed three hits in four innings of scoreless relief.
With the Warrior bats being silenced, the Knights’ offense came to life in the fourth.
With one gone, Jeremiah Jenkins got aboard with a walk which was followed by a pair of bunts singles from Dylan Hendrix and recent junior varsity call-up Keaton Gardner, who bat in the eighth and ninth holes, respectively, as the hosts loaded the bases.
"The bottom of our order did a great job with some key bunts. Keaton Gardner had two sacrifice bunts and Dylan Hendrix and Jeremiah Jenkins did good jobs as the bottom of our order getting on base for us, "Cash said.
Holley made it a 4-3 game when his sacrifice fly to center plated Jenkins. A walk to Tyler Bowers drove in Gardner with the tying while Stephen Barrett’s run-scoring single put the Knights on top, 5-4. An error on a ball hit by Chase Stephens brought Tyler Bowers home with the sixth run.
The hosts out-hit the Warriors, 8-6, with Tyler Bowers collecting a pair of hits while eight different batters chipped in with a base hit each.
"It was a total team effort by our team and all our coaches," Cash said after his team improved to 4-4 overall. "Their coach said to me after the game, ‘Coach, you may have a young team but your guys play like a team.’
"That’s one of the biggest compliments a coach can get to hear another coach say that our guys are playing hard and playing together from the guys in the field to the guys on the bench. Keaton Gardner was called up from the jayvees and played left field and our guys cheered him on and encouraged him and, he played well."
After seeing his offense struggle at times against harder-throwing pitchers, Cash said his coaching staff took it upon themselves to correct the problem
"I can’t say enough about our coaches; Cary Phillips, Erik Densmore, Brandon Faulkenberry, Ryan Bell and Jordan "Worm" Anderson," Cash said. "They are doing a great job of working our guys hard. We’ve been struggling when we see fast pitching but we got our kids in the cage (Thursday) and our coaches threw their arms out throwing tennis balls so hard to our kids.
"We’re working hard. They’ve been ‘bad cop-ping’ them and I’m trying to be the good cop here. My coaching staff is incredible and the credit for our two victories this week goes to them. They help me look good."