North Lenoir keeps ECC title hopes alive, defeats Washington
WASHINGTON — Locked in a pitcher’s duel for a majority of the game, North Lenoir found its resolve late for the win.
The Hawks defeated Washington 7-2 Wednesday, winning their fifth straight game in the process. North Lenoir (12-3, 5-3 Eastern Carolina Conference) fell to Washington 5-2 on March 15, but got revenge on the road against the Pam Pack (10-4, 6-2) and pulling within one game of the conference lead.
“We got timely hits when we needed (them), we put the ball in play when we needed to and defensively, they backed (our pitchers) up,” North Lenoir coach Jackson Massey said. “We were able to make some really good plays to keep (Washington) off the scoreboard.”
North Lenoir’s Peyton Howard pitched on short rest, but battled well against Washington ace Logan Everette. Howard allowed three walks in the first inning, but settled down over the next three innings, allowing one hit with no walks and four strikeouts.
“My teammates really helped me out,” Howard said. “I was really down about the first inning and they were telling me to keep my head up. Then, I was able to get myself into a rhythm.”
Howard helped his own cause in the top of the third, drawing a walk before stealing second and third, eventually scoring on a wild pitch. Jayden Gatling would follow suit an inning later, getting walked before stealing second. Washington tried to pick Gatling off at third, but the throw went into the outfield, allowing him to score and put North Lenoir ahead 2-0.
Washington answered in the bottom of the fifth, as Mason Weaver’s sacrifice grounder cut the North Lenoir lead in half. After consecutive two-out walks loaded the bases, Howard forced Jeremiah Moore to fly out to rightfield and end the inning.
The Hawks had little answer for Everette, who allowed only two hits and struck out 13 and 5 1/3 innings, but picked up plenty of insurance in the seventh, scoring five. Brendon Grant highlighted the attack with a two-run single, followed by consecutive bases-loaded walks and a wild pitch.
“When we were able to open up the floodgates, we just wanted to keep it going,” Grant said. “We kept picking each other up as teammates and made it happen.”
Washington got a run off an error in the bottom of the seventh, but it wasn’t enough.
The victory brought the Hawks within 1.5 games of Ayden-Grifton for the conference lead and 1 game behind Washington for second as the team goes for its sixth straight ECC title. Massey said the team can’t get caught looking ahead, even with a matchup with the Chargers set for April 18 in The Swamp.
“We’ve got to beat Greene Central (Thursday) and that’s all we can worry about,” Massey said. “We’ve got to take it a game at a time and if we handle our business, we’ll have a chance at the end of the season to come away with a conference championship, but none of that matters if we don’t win (Thursday).”