Hawks' win streak ends as North Lenoir rally falls short
LA GRANGE — A strong pitching performance by North Lenoir’s starting pitcher, Jamir Jones-Gatling, was not enough to overcome a stagnant offense and five costly errors. A late rally fell short as the Hawks dropped a 3-2 contest to the Bunn Wildcats Tuesday in a matchup of top-15 teams.
North Lenoir was ranked ninth in the state in 2A and Bunn 14th according to Maxpreps
“We had plenty of opportunities in this game, but we just did not execute,” North Lenoir coach Jackson Massey said. “We had runners on base and couldn’t drive them in. Either we struck out or we couldn’t drive them home. Defensively, we kept rushing throws or plays and it got us. This was not a very good night for us.”
“This game was a prep for the playoffs,” Bunn coach Patrick Warren. “We came up a team that is hoping to be one of the teams in the championship game at the end of the season; and they very well could be there too. We feel we were fortunate enough to jump ahead early with a few runs as we were scared that at some point their offense would click, like they did at the end of the game tonight.”
The Wildcats got on the board quickly in the first inning. Jaylen Perry opened up the game with a leadoff infield single, reached third after two groundouts and would score on an error. Bunn would extend their lead in the second inning when Landon Ball smashed a two-run home run over the fence in left center field.
Meanwhile, the Hawks struggled offensively against Bunn starter Trent Simmons. Simmons would pitch 5 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts, two hits and three walks.
“Simmons us always incredible for us,” Warren said. “He had command of all three of his pitches. He ran into a high pitch count in the first two innings, so we had to pull him later. But he had a heck of a game for us.”
Despite taking the loss, Jones-Gatling pitched well. In five innings worth of work , he gave up three runs on five hits, walked four, and struck out eight.
“Jamir did enough to keep us in this game,” Massey said. “When your starter only gives up three runs, you would hope your team can rally behind and score some runs. Even the home run he gave up was on a good pitch and the kid hit it well. But the defense let him down. He did everything he could to keep this game tight and got some big outs when we needed him to. This game easily could have been a blowout.”
North Lenoir would finally get some runs in the bottom of the sixth. Peyton Howard got on base with an error and reached third due to a pair of groundouts. A wild pitch would score Howard. Brendon Grant then sliced a double to right field and scored on an RBI single by Ethan May. Two walks would load the bases, but a strikeout would end the threat.
In the top of the seventh, the Wildcats had runners on second and third with two outs. Seth Bullock lined a shot to right field. Jones-Gatling, now playing right field, picked up the ball and rifled a throw to first. He beat the runner by a hair, sparing a run and ending the inning. However, the Hawks were unable to keep the momentum rolling into the bottom of the inning.
The Hawks are looking to rebound against the Ayden-Grifton Chargers on Thursday. The winner of that game will have possession of second place with a chance to leapfrog into first, depending on how Washington plays this week.
“First, we have to have some intensity in Wednesday’s practice,” Massey said. “We can’t come into Ayden slacking. The execution needs to be there. We can’t be sloppy and make little mistakes. We can’t expect them to let us win. We have to capitalize when we get runners on base, we have to be able to shut them down when they are at bat, and we cannot help them out by giving them errors. We need to steal when we can, be smartly aggressive, and capitalize more on the chances given to us than they do. If we can do that, we can come out with a win.”
Bunn 3, North Lenoir 2
R H E
Wildcats 120 000 0 3 6 1
Hawks 000 002 0 2 4 5