Pitching, timely hits put New Hanover, Hoggard ball clubs in spring break finals

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The Hoggard baseball team advanced to the spring break tournament championship at Ashley High School on Tuesday as the Vikings broke open a one-run contest with a three-run rally in the fourth to pick up a 6-1 victory over Laney.

“You’re not always going to swing it like the way we have the last couple games,” said Hoggard Coach Jeep St. Ledger. “But, when you’re not able to hit it, it comes down to pitching and defense and I thought we were pretty good in that aspect today.”

After an RBI double by Shelton Lewis in the top of the second, sophomore Logan Adams retired nine of the next 10 batters faced. The righty from Hoggard surrendered one earned run on two hits in a complete game effort, with three walks and seven strikeouts.

Hoggard grabbed its second win in as many days on Tuesday. Photo by Joe Catenacci
Hoggard grabbed its second win in as many days on Tuesday. Photo by Joe Catenacci

Sam Schmidt found some open grass down the left field line to put Vikings in front 2-1 in the second. Three hit by pitches in the pivotal inning loaded the bases for Hoggard, while a wild pitch plated Hunter Gaylord followed by a Connor Simpson two-run single to bring in Schmidt and Pantelis Poulos.

Laney starter John Speight scattered three hits, but control problems plagued him in the fourth. The Bucs had just three hits all game, including a one-out single up the middle by Hunter Gainey, who had the lone run scored for Laney. Gage Vass also had a 1-for-2 day and one walk.

Gaylord finished with two runs for Hoggard and Simpson went 2-for-4 at the plate with three runs batted in. Brad Pennington walked twice to go along with a sacrifice fly. Nick Sander and Mike Gans added back-to-back pinch hit singles in the sixth, which gave the Vikings runners on first and second and nobody out. A walk to Schmidt loaded the bases and Pennington added a run batted in on the deep fly out to center field.

“Logan threw it well today and we got the hits when we needed them,” St. Ledger added. “We got a chance to play tomorrow night and that’s the position you want to be in at the tournament.”

Hoggard won their fourth straight game and improved to 8-1 overall heading into Wednesday’s championship game against New Hanover. First pitch is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Laney fell to 4-6 and gets back on the field for its third game in as many days on Wednesday.

Laney        010 000  0       1   3   1

Hoggard    110 301  X       6   5  2

WP: Logan Adams    LP: John Speight


New Hanover 2     Ashley 1

With the game tied at one after Ashley got on the board in the top of the fifth, freshman Kyle Smith singled home classmate Blake Walston as New Hanover used timely at-bats and a strong effort from Casey Miller in a 2-1 victory on Tuesday night.

Both starting pitchers kept their respective team in contention throughout the contest. Miller struck out nine in a complete game for the Wildcats, while Christian Tafoya allowed one earned run on four hits, with one walk and seven strikeouts. Miller gave up one run on five hits.

Blake Walston celebrates after landing on third with a triple. Photo courtesy- Hannah Leyva.
Blake Walston celebrates after landing on third with a triple. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

“Casey is ready to go each time out and tonight was his night from the get-go,” said New Hanover Assistant Coach Erik Bron. “We work a lot on tempo and I thought he was working quickly, throwing strikes, using good mechanics and pounding the zone early.”

New Hanover took an early 1-0 edge after an error to lead off the second, which put Alex Sniffen on first. A single to right by Max Hildreth moved runners to first and second and Walston laid down a sacrifice bunt, pushing Sniffen and Hildreth into scoring position. Caleb Bishop brought in the game’s first run after the junior hit a deep fly ball to center field on the first pitch of his at-bat, scoring Sniffen from third.

Lee Fentress tied the game in the fifth on a run scoring single.  Sean Ross hit a humpback liner into right field to start the frame and moved to second on a wild-pitch. Fentress came up with the big base knock before Miller battled out of the jam, leaving two Ashley runners stranded.

The Wildcats responded in the bottom of the inning when Smith delivered in the clutch situation to bring home Walston, who blasted a stand-up triple to straight away center field. With Walston on third and nobody out, Tafoya got a tapper back to the mound and a strikeout as the Ashley right-handed hurler nearly wiggled out of trouble until Smith knocked a 3-2 pitch back up the box for the game-winner.

“I don’t count Blake or Kyle as freshman,” Bron said. “They’ve logged so many innings already and are such a big part of this team. Two big hits and we’ve been harping on our approach all week. You get something you can hit early on a fastball to make them pay. If you get two strikes, it’s the team’s pitch and Kyle did that. He made a swing for the team and got the base hit.”

Alex Brooks had the only extra base hit for the Screaming Eagles, while Fulton Hill added a double for New Hanover. Down to their final three outs, Ashley  had the tying run at second , but Caleb Bishop preserved the result with a diving catch on a ball hit into shallow right field for the 21st out of the ball game.

The win gives the Wildcats a spot in the title game against Hoggard. New Hanover improved to 8-1 overall and looks to clinch its first Ashley High School Spring Break Tournament Championship in its 14-year history on Wednesday. Ashley dropped to 3-6 and look to bounce back at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Ashley  000  010  0       1  5  1

NHHS  010  010   X     2   4   0

WP: Casey Miller (2-0)    LP: Christian Tafoya