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Victories in the game of baseball, even by better teams, aren’t always overpowering or littered with intimidating double-digit run totals. But Friday afternoon at Gilbert Ferrell Field, the Fike High varsity baseball team showed enough mettle against Winterville South Central in validating an unbeaten start to the season.
In a 6-5 victory — the second straight one-run win over a Pitt County opponent by the Golden Demons — Fike overcame an early three-run deficit and turned in timely defensive plays. Couple that with timely hitting and a four-out save from junior Hunter Stokely, and the 3-A Big East Conference Demons won their sixth game in as many tries.
“As far as team wise, I would have liked to get some at-bats back,” Fike head coach Buck Edmundson said. “I like our aggressiveness, though we may be a little too aggressive at times. We stayed resilient — a 3-0 hole is hard to come back from when they were swinging the bats as they were. I was glad to see us come back and take the lead. It’s good to do that right before conference, so I’m happy with the win.”
Fike starting left-hander Tanner Sullivan labored through his brief outing on the mound, lasting just one-third of an inning and walking three in that span while hitting a batter. Two of those walks were of the bases-loaded variety, and Sullivan departed the mound with three runs on his ledger. Yet that wasn’t the end of his day. After being moved to first base, Sullivan drove in a run with his first-inning run that scored Stokely, and in the third, erased the deficit that he created with a two-run double to the gap in left center. At first base in the fourth, he turned in a running grab towards the first-base fence in foul ground.
“He didn’t carry what happened in the first inning to his at-bats, which I was really thrilled to see,” Edmundson said of Sullivan. “And then, he just stayed hot. Tanner’s been playing well for us all year, so I was glad for him to come up clutch like he did.”
Senior Zach Pittman relieved Sullivan in the first and kept the Falcons (1-6), 3-A members of the split 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference, at bay through the middle innings. In picking up the win in relief, he worked 5 1/3 innings, while striking out five and walking one. Pittman allowed seven of South Central’s nine hits and was lifted in favor of Stokely following back-to-back doubles from Alex Bouche and Xavier Meachem, which trimmed the margin to the final score.
Fike took the lead for good in the fourth, using a leadoff hit by pitch to sophomore Colton Moats. He was moved to second on sophomore Bryan Bunn’s sacrifice bunt and took third on the error, off the bat of Bunn. Senior Myles Cyrus plated Moats with a fielder’s choice, sending Fike up to stay at 4-3.
Moats was a factor both offensively and defensively for the Demons at second base, turning in a fine diving play in the second inning to rob South Central’s Bouche of a base hit. The very next batter, he initiated a 4-6-3 double play and ended the game in the same manner by erasing a one-out Stokely hit by pitch to catcher Ryan Hodges in the top of the seventh.
At the plate in the fifth, Moats followed consecutive two-out singles by juniors Chad Bean and Mason Lee — the former his Wilson City Little League teammate — by ripping a two-run double to the left-center field gap. That hit gave the Demons extra insurance that turned out to be needed.
“I was just looking for something to drive and score the two runs,” Moats said. “They’re a good team, so I figured they were going to score.”
Each team finished with nine hits, and Fike’s defense made just one error on the opening at-bat of the contest. South Central’s top four hitters — Drew Browne, Bouche, Meachem and Wyatt Bagwell — were responsible for eight of the Falcons’ base hits. Bagwell took the loss for the Falcons, starting and allowing five hits over 4 1/3 innings.
“That’s a good team,” South Central head coach Pat McRae said of Fike. “There’s a reason they’re 6-0, you know what I mean? They’re very well coached. Coach Edmundson does a fantastic job with them, and they played pretty good defense all night. Their pitchers weren’t bad. After they took the first kid out, they threw a bunch of strikes.”
Senior catcher Garrett Browder was 2 for 4 at the plate for Fike, which opens Big East play Monday at home against Southern Nash. The Demons will be attempting to defend a conference championship that they won in undefeated fashion a season ago.
“We’re going to win conference,” Moats forecasted. “I’m pretty confident we’re going to win conference. We’ve played some tough games, we’ve played Rose and beat them.”
Score by innings:
South Central 300 002 0 — 5
Fike 102 120 x — 6
WP-Zach Pittman 5 1/3 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO. LP-Wyatt Bagwell 4 1/3 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 SO. S-Hunter Stokely 1 1/3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — Fike: Tanner Sullivan 2-3, 2B, 3 RBI, Garrett Browder 2-4, Colton Moats 1-2, 2B, 2 RBI; South Central: Drew Browne 2-4, Alex Bouche 2-3, 2B, RBI, Xavier Meachem 2-4, 2B, RBI, Wyatt Bagwell 2-3, 2B,RBI.