After winning 18 straight games this spring, the West Brunswick baseball team still had a big mental hurdle to overcome and Tuesday’s big conference matchup against Topsail proved to be a huge stepping stone in the Trojans’ quest for a league title.
Having dropped the last five contests to the Pirates over the past two seasons, West Brunswick had a little extra pep in their step at Mike Alderson Field and took a commanding two-game lead in the division following a 4-1 victory against their 3A counterparts.
“We haven’t had that much fun in a long time,” said West Brunswick Coach T.J. Spivey. “We talked about it all year that this was the reason why we worked so hard this offseason. We hang our hat on running the bases. It cost us early, but we’re not going to change what we do. We try to keep our foot on the pedal.”
The Trojans extended their streak to 19 wins in a row, improving to 9-0 in conference and 20-1 overall as the top team in the Mideastern Conference. Meanwhile, Topsail dropped to 6-2 in the division and 13-7 on the year.
West Brunswick strung together five consecutive hits in their first at-bat and took an early 1-0 lead, but miscues on the base paths ran the home team out of the frame. Tyler Stanley tripled to the right-center gap to start the inning and Tristan Lewis followed with an infield single to pick up the run batted in.
Right-handed hurler Jonathan Carlyle allowed a one-out walk in the top of the first, then sat down seven consecutive Topsail hitters before Bryce Cota smacked a two-out line drive up the middle in the third. Cota went 3-for-3 to pace the Pirates’ offense, including an RBI single to spoil the shutout bid.
Carlyle got more run support in the third when Lewis and Hunter Ashburn plated runs for the 3-0 advantage. Lewis scored on an RBI ground out by Tyler McDuffie and Ashburn slid in ahead of the tag for a straight steal of home as the ball got away from Pirates’ catcher Colby Emmertz to keep the momentum on West Brunswick’s side.
“Coach Spivey told me that he gave Carlyle the take sign and we just went for it,” said Ashburn. “I was going all the way. We never worked on it before and just went for it.”
The cushion was all Carlyle needed as the junior tossed a complete game, scattering four hits and three walks, with two strikeouts. He pitched to contact and retired the side in order three times, with a strikeout as the final out of the ball game. Topsail left six runners on base.
Senior Payton Rice suffered his first loss of the season on the mound, allowing four runs on nine hits. He fanned six, with back-to-back strikeouts in the fifth before tossing his only one, two, three bottom of the inning after Topsail got on the board off the single by Cota to drive in Layne Marcum. Marcum was pulled up from junior varsity over the past week to play shortstop as Sam Hall continues to battle an injury.
“We need to get back to putting together better at-bats,” said Topsail Coach Chris Blake. “We haven’t been executing the way we’re capable of. Some of the things that have bit us all year hurt us today. It’s time to clean some things up and get back at it.”
Seven of nine batters in the Trojans lineup had at least one hit. All nine reached base, while Stanley and Ashburn had multi-hit games. West Brunswick put their lead-off hitter on four times in seven chances. Austin Turner started the second with a line drive to left and walked to begin the fourth in an inning where he scored after the free pass. Both free passes to start an inning cost Rice as the Trojans were able to get those runs across the board.
“We’re a family-oriented group this year,” Ashburn added. “When you have 17 guys who all want to achieve one goal, it works. Now, it’s about taking one day and one game at a time. We try to beat the game of baseball. Keep getting one percent better each day at practice. We just need to keep playing the game hard.”
Both teams return to action in conference on Friday, April 28. Topsail looks to get a bounce-back win at home against South Brunswick. West Brunswick travels to Wilmington for a date with Ashley.
Box score R H E
Topsail 000 010 0 1 4 0
W. Brunswick 102 100 X 4 9 0
LOB_W. Brunswick, 6; Topsail, 6; 3B_Tyler Stanley; RBI_ Tristan Lewis, Tyler McDuffie; SB_ Austin Turner, Hunter Ashburn;
WP: Jonathan Carlyle (7IP, 1R, 1ER, 4H, 3BB, 2K)
LP: Payton Rice (6IP, 4R, 4ER, 9H, 3BB, 6K)