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Lions trio combines to no-hit Knights
NORTH CENTRALS JOHN BOWERS delivers a pitch during Mondays season opener against visiting Lewisville. The hosts dropped their season opener, 9-0. - photo by C-I photo by Tom Didato

Usually in high school baseball, the deeper you get into a team’s bullpen the better your chances are of coming away with a victory.

When that pitching staff belongs to Lewisville, however, you can toss that scenario out with the rest of the garbage.

Starting with College of Charleston signee Evan Sisk, the visiting Lions sent out a trio of pitchers who combined to no-hit North Central and leave Boonetown with a 9-0 victory in Monday night’s regular season opener.

Sisk, a lefty, threw three perfect innings, striking out five, before handing the ball off to sophomore Trey Keels with the righty working two perfect innings. Sophomore Drew Kolvin finished off the game and allowed a sixth inning walk to the first batter he faced, Alex Tarlton, while walking Tyler Bowers with two outs in the seventh. Both runners were erased on the base paths as the Lions’ trio faced the minimum 21 batters.

Lewisville came to town after having played four games in as many days in a pre-season tournament along the Grand Strand. That led Lions’ head coach Billy Keels to lessen the load on his pitcher’s arms with the threesome combining to fan 10 Knights.

The guests scored all the runs they would need with three in the second before tacking on three more in the third to put NC in a five-run hole. Knights’ head coach Robbie Cash said against a team as good as Lewisville --- which is ranked third in class A ---, the last thing you need to do is fall behind early and by that many runs.

"When we play them, runs are always at a premium," Cash said.

"They played in a tournament at the beach and played four straight days so they had to piece meal things together tonight. (Billy Keels) was in a situation where he was going to get the best out of them for an inning or two. I wish it was a situation where they had a guy going five or six innings where we could get after him but he took his three guys and told them to go hard for two or three innings which made it tougher on our guys.

"We saw some good pitching tonight which will help us in the long run. I thought we had some good hacks early but in the sixth and seventh innings, I thought our effort was poor."

NC sent John Bowers to the mound and the senior lefty got off to a rocky start which was not totally of his own doing. On the third pitch of the game, Drew Stewart sent a grounder along the third base line which appeared to be foul only to be ruled by the plate umpire that the ball went over the third base bag in fair territory. That drew a mild protest from Cash who came out of the dugout to get an explanation on the call.

The Lions ended up loading the bases with no outs in the first only to see Bowers set down a looking Cody Montgomery with an off-speed pitch for the first out before getting Austin Bradshaw to go down swinging at a fastball. Bowers got himself out of the jam in getting Alex Reed to fly out to Hunter Wyant in deep right field.

"I promised myself that I was not going to get out of the dugout this year," Cash said of arguing a call. "And here, I’m out of the dugout after the third pitch; the ball never got in fair territory."

An inning later, however, Bowers was not as fortunate.

Using three consecutive singles to open the second, the guests scored the first run on Stewart’s sacrifice fly to left before Montgomery drove in runs two and three with a single to right. The inning closed with Wyant’s throw was cut off by second baseman Stephen Barrett who threw a strike to catcher Chase Stephens who applied the tag on a sliding Sisk.

An NC error on a leadoff blooper aided the Lions in the third as Kolvin’s RBI single ended Bowers’ night after LHS upped the lead to 5-0 following an errant pickoff throw to get Bradshaw at second as he scored the fourth run. Kolvin scored on Stewart’s double off reliever Cam Holley, who gave way to Tyler Bowers who would work the final 4.1 innings in throwing more than 70 pitches.

Giving Sisk five runs to play with, Cash said, was hardly the recipe for a successful opening night.

"Give him all his props," Cash said of Sisk. "That’s why he is one of the top three left-handers in the state. He battled hard and got after it. I appreciate how good he is. But when they brought those other guys in, we should have done a little better than what we did."

The Lions’ lead remained at six until they hung another three-spot in a top of the seventh in which all the runs were unearned thanks to the second of two NC errors on the night. "We had one kick (error) in the infield and one kick in the outfield so I thought our defense played well," Cash said.

The Knights’ boss was not so forgiving when it came two having both NC base runners picked off for straying too far from the bag in the final two frames.

"We made two huge base running errors which gave up two outs," Cash said. "We had a guy picked off second base by the catcher when we’re down six runs. Then, we get a guy picked off first when we’re down, 9-0. We’re coaching these guys hard but they have to take to coaching, too.

"We’ll get out here tomorrow and work on our base running and get ready to go to Buford on Friday. They have a good team and they have three guys who throw in the mid-to upper-80s so we’ll go there and get our hacks."

Diamond Dust: In the first game of the evening, the North Central junior varsity team used a walk-off single in the bottom of the sixth to take a 5-4 win over the Lions … Cash and the Knights’ baseball program used Monday’s opening game to help the community. For every chicken bog dinner sold throughout the evening, $1 was to be donated to Food for the Soul, which provides free meals and shelter to the less-fortunate citizens of Kershaw County.