PILOT MOUNTAIN — For five innings, the North Surry baseball team didn’t do a whole lot in its rivalry game with East Surry on Friday evening.
With that said, however, the Greyhounds’ beginning and end to the contest was plenty good enough to trump the middle innings, in which the host Cardinals were in the ascendant.
North Surry (7-2) took advantage of a bout of wildness from East Surry starting pitcher AJ Wilson to put seven runs on the board before East Surry even had a chance to hit. The Cardinals responded with four runs in the middle innings to get back into the game, but the Hounds, clinging to a 7-4 advantage going into the seventh, tacked on three more in their final swings of the night. The big blow came on a hard-hit line drive by Mack Cooke after the first two batters of the inning had gotten on base.
East Surry (4-4) mounted one final rally in the bottom of the seventh and pushed a run across, but got no further before the visitors retired the side and put the game away.
It had been speculated that the teams would stage a rematch of their March 8 game at North Surry, where the Hounds’ Brady Watts squared off against the Cardinals’ Tyler Smith in a battle of top pitching prospects. However, the coaches on both teams agreed beforehand that they’d use their aces in other games that week. The result was a very different game than 1-0 win by North in the first meeting.
Wilson took the mound for East Surry and quickly got himself into trouble with wildness. The game began innocently enough, as Chase Chandler led off with a single and Reid Stanley bunted him to second. But then Wilson walked Kendal Tucker on four pitches, Watts on a full count, Mason Gwyn on five pitches, and Cooke on four. Before the inning was over, seven runs had scored, Wilson was taken out of the game, and Chandler had come up a second time and smashed a double that sent two more runners home after all of the first five had crossed home plate.
The Cardinals had put runners on base in each of the first two innings, but didn’t get on the board until the bottom half of the third. With one out, Smith reached on an error and Blake Marion singled. Wilson, who remained in the game after being pulled from the mound, smashed a double that drive in Smith and put runners on second and third with one out. North got the second out, but wasn’t able to prevent both Marion and Wilson from getting home before the inning was over.
East Surry continued to battle back in its half of the fifth. Alex Eubanks got on leading off the inning, and with one out, Corbin Kiser walked. Luke Horton followed with an excellent bunt. North pitcher Gwyn fielded the ball and made a rushed, errant throw that sailed into right field and allowed Eubanks to score and both runners to advance into scoring position.
A base hit would have put the home team right onto the Hounds’ heels, but Gwyn tightened up and retired the next two batters to escape the jam.
Watts led off the North Surry seventh with a single, Gwyn took one for the team and was awarded first base, and then Cooke hit a rocket into the right-center gap that the Cardinals managed to cut off, but not before Watts scored. Eventually, both Gwyn and Cooke also came in to extend the lead back to six runs.
Both teams flashed some impressive leather in the sixth. In the top half of the inning, Marion, playing third for the Cardinals, dived to his left to stop on a hard-hit ball by Stanley that looked like a sure double down the line, only to see the North second baseman beat out his throw. However, the Cardinals picked him off first moments later. In the bottom half of the inning, Stanley got revenge by leaping three feet into the air to turn a hard-hit line drive by Wilson into an out.
The Cardinals scored one more in their last opportunity. Eubanks led off with a walk and Kiser singled with one out, but the only East Surry run came on a Horton groundout for the second out. The next batter was retired and the game ended.East Surry will open conference play at Bishop McGuinness on Tuesday night. North Surry visits Ashe County on Monday night.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.