DOBSON — To say East Surry’s baseball team ended a prolonged batting slump with a bang might be the understatement of the season.
The Cardinals, who had managed just one run in their past 22 innings going into Thursday’s second day of the Fieldbuilders Easter Invitational, started their early afternoon tilt against North Iredell with more of the same. East Surry failed to score in any of the first four innings of play and trailed 3-0 when it came to bat in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Wyatt Guy led off against Raider starter David Highman, who had set down eight straight batters going into the inning. On a 1-2 pitch, the senior first baseman hit a towering blast to right field that cleared the 15-foot high fence and put the Cardinals on the board. It was the first run driven in by an East Surry batter since the team’s win over Bishop McGuinness nine days earlier.
Even more noteworthy about the home run is that several of the Cardinals had expressed frustration with the playing conditions at Surry Community College’s field, where the game was played. Although an excellent park, the ball doesn’t carry as well at SCC as it does on the Surry Central field, and hard-hit balls on both sides were being knocked down by the wind.
In any case, the blast seemed to rattle the Raiders, even though they still led 3-1. The next batter, Corbin Kiser, reached on an error, and then the floodgates opened. Starting pitcher Kain Kiser helped himself with a double, and then Highman uncorked a wild pitch that allowed both Kisers to score, tying the game. After that, Tyler Smith and Blake Marion walked, and with two out, Tyler Chilton, Alex Eubanks and Guy hit back-to-back-to-back singles to net three additional runs. After both Kisers walked, John Marion and then Smith singled for the seventh and eighth runs of the inning. In all, a total of 15 East Surry hitters came to the plate in the frame.
“We finally got the bats rolling,” said East Surry coach Chad Freeman. “Glad to finally get back in the win column, and hopefully we’ll be able to play tomorrow or Saturday and keep it up.”
The runs came as a welcome sight to Kain Kiser, who has pitched in hard luck a number of times this season. The sophomore wasn’t quite as sharp on Thursday, walking three of the first four hitters who faced him, but settled down and ended up going the distance in the contest, which ended after six innings due to the mercy rule. The only other run Kiser allowed in his 94-pitch outing was an unearned run in the fifth after the Cardinals committed two errors. He allowed just two hits, struck out four and walked four (none after the second inning), and was charged with just one earned run.
“After the first inning, Kain settled down and threw well,” Freeman said. “He was just missing, just off the plate, and he kind of gave them those two runs in the first inning. Then he got into a rhythm. If you don’t walk people and you make the plays in the field, you’ll be in a lot of games.”
The Raiders (1-10) got free passes from Paxton Cornett, Bryeen Huffman and Luke Johnson at the start of the game. A wild pitch and a passed ball gave North Iredell a 2-0 lead to start things off, and for a long time, it looked like Highman was just going to extend the Cardinals’ offensive malaise. Smith singled and reached third before being left in the East Surry first, and then Guy doubled with two out in the second, only to be stranded. After that, the only Cardinal who reached base until the fifth did so on a passed-ball strikeout.
Luke Harrell reached on an error to start the Iredell fifth and later scored on a hit by Alec Baldwin, but Kiser pitched his way out of the jam even after a second Cardinal miscue put another runner on base, and the East Surry coaching staff gathered the team after the half-inning, where the players encouraged each other to hit the ball.
They didn’t stop after that inning, either. In the top of sixth, Kain Kiser blew away the Raiders. The Cardinals needed just three runs to end it early, and got them. A.J. Wilson led off with a double before Chilton got robbed on a sinking liner to left. No matter, because Eubanks and Guy hit back-to-back singles to plate a run, and then Corbin Kiser walked. That brought Kain Kiser back up with a chance to walk off with his own victory. He grounded to second for what should have produced just one run, but the Iredell defense botched the ball, throwing the ball away and allowing both Eubanks and Guy to score.
East Surry improved to 6-7 overall with the victory.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.