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When the competition doesn’t relent, signs of progress can be difficult to detect.
Indeed, progress was the objective for the Community Christian School varsity baseball team during Tuesday’s game with 1-A/2-A Coastal Independents Conference foe and defending North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A champion Kerr-Vance Academy.
While the 1-A Cyclones found themselves unable to extend the Spartans to the full seven innings in a 13-3, five-inning decision, CCS did attempt to ramp up its aggression at the plate. Displeased by absorbing too many called strikes in the first four games, Cyclones head coach Andy Jackson implored his charges to get more fruitful hacks at the plate. CCS batters struck out seven times, but none were rung up via the roar of home-plate umpire Mickey Davis. And in the bottom of the first, the Cyclones (1-4, 1-2 CIC) put forth enough up of a fight to make a dent in KVA’s four-run cushion to end the top of the first.
“We had some guys take some good cuts today and got a couple of nice hits,” Jackson said. “We really stressed not looking at as many pitches and swinging the bats. I thought we had a few guys have some good at-bats today, a little better than we’ve had. We knew to beat, or compete with them, we’d have to play flawless. You can’t bobble a ball, because they’re fast and they’re going to advance. They put a lot of pressure on you about scoring.”
The Cyclones responded to Kerr-Vance’s four-run first inning with a pair in the bottom half. Senior Noah Moran drew a leadoff walk and came around to score on a solid single into left field by senior Reece Bartlett. He later scored on a double steal in conjunction with sophomore Chase Joyner, who also singled.
However, despite the flashes of progress made at the plate — nine batters reached base in some form or fashion in 23 plate appearances — the Cyclones did not help their cause on the mound or in the field. Junior Thomas Lane started and lasted just one inning before yielding to senior Drew Oliver, who gave up seven runs in 1 1/3 innings. Five of the runs charged to Oliver were earned, including a three-run, inside-the-park home run to KVA’s Cam Murphy in the third. Kerr-Vance baserunners weren’t shy about taking the extra base against the CCS outfield arms.
Defensively, CCS was guilty of five errors and had difficulty minimizing Kerr-Vance (4-1, 2-0 CIC) outbursts in two-out situations. The Spartans batted around in the first and third innings.
“We don’t have the velocity to throw the ball by somebody,” Jackson lamented. “We don’t have that. We’ve got to hit a spot, and we’ve got to field it clean. We didn’t always field the ball real cleanly.”
R.J. Johnson picked up the win for Kerr-Vance, working 3 2/3 innings and allowing two hits, both in the first inning. He struck out five and walked two before turning it over to Joel Lewis. Lewis yielded the other CCS hit to Oliver, who singled and came around to score on a three-base error in the fifth.
Kerr-Vance, which had 12 hits, was led by the 4-for-4 showing of Lane White. Colby Wilkerson was 3 for 3 with a pair of doubles and drove in a run in the first. Johnson tallied sacrifice flies in the third and fourth innings.
“I think we did good at the plate,” Kerr-Vance head coach Todd Wilkerson said. “We talked about that when we came down here to be ready to hit, be ready to select, be selective and hit a good pitch. I thought we did that, and our pitching held up for us.”
CCS remains at home Thursday to face Rocky Mount New Life Christian.
“We did some things today inside the game,” Jackson said. “Their runners are really fast. We’ve worked on trying to hold them on, and we’ll just try to continue to do those things where we don’t give guys just free runs on us. We’ve got to field the ball cleaner. I just want us to play with an intensity.”
Score by innings:
Kerr-Vance Acad. 425 02 — 13
CCS 200 01 — 3
WP-R.J. Johnson 3 2/3 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO. LP-Thomas Lane 1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — CCS: Drew Oliver 1-2, Reece Bartlett 1-1, RBI, Chase Joyner 1-2; Kerr-Vance Academy: Lane White 4-4, RBI; Colby Wilkerson 3-3, 2B, RBI; Cam Mu