PITTSBORO — A one-out Northwood miscue in the top of the seventh allowed courtesy runner Bryce Jeske to sprint home from third with the deciding score as East Chapel Hill managed to saddle the …
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PITTSBORO — A one-out Northwood miscue in the top of the seventh allowed courtesy runner Bryce Jeske to sprint home from third with the deciding score as East Chapel Hill managed to saddle the Chargers with a 6-5 setback in a clash of Big Eight 3A Conference rivals Wednesday night at The Ronald Horton Baseball Complex.
Sweeping the season series by handing Northwood a one-run defeat for the second time in three days, the Wildcats climbed to 6-1 in the league standings and 8-7 for the year, while the Chargers stumbled to 6-3 in the conference and 10-6 overall.
With the game tied at 5-5 entering the visitors’ seventh, Evan Harris, who went four-for-four at the plate, led off the frame with a double into the left field corner.
Jeske, who came in to run for Harris, then advanced to third as Tyler Petterson bunted his way on base.
One out later C.J. DiBenedetto hit a towering pop-up to the edge of the left field grass, and when miscommunication between Northwood’s shortstop and third baseman resulted in a misplay on the attempted catch, Jeske took off for home plate to tally what proved to be the winning run.
East Chapel Hill reliever Matthew Kupec, who replaced starter Evan Gagne on the hill in the bottom of the fifth, picked up the win after tossing two and one-third innings of hitless ball while walking two and striking out one.
Gagne threw four and two-third innings, giving up six hits and five runs (one earned) in addition to issuing a pair of free passes and fanning two.
“We were able to take advantage of opportunities this evening and put pressure on the defense with our aggressiveness on the base paths,” explained Wildcats’ coach Matt Russell.
“I was pleased with our production at the plate (11 hits) and we got four-plus good innings from Gagne before Kupec gave up a pair of walks prior to permitting only one other base runner the rest of the way.”
Justin Szczypinski, the second of three Chargers’ hurlers, suffered the loss after surrendering nine hits and four runs (three earned) while walking one and whiffing three over four-plus innings of work.
Northwood starter Luke Popp tossed two innings, allowing two hits and a pair of earned runs besides issuing two free passes and striking out one, while Michael Posse pitched the final inning for the Chargers, fanning one.
“We did some positive things tonight, but there are things we still have to improve upon,” said Northwood coach David Miller.
“We played two winnable games against East Chapel Hill this week but let both of them slip away, and we need to keep learning from situations we put ourselves in,” Miller said.
The Chargers bolted to a 2-0 advantage in the bottom of the first as Dylan Hitt grounded a one-out single to right and stole second with two away before moving to third when Tyler Johnson reached on a throwing error.
After Deuce Powell singled to left to drive in Hitt and send Johnson to second, Johnson and Powell then pulled off a successful double steal, with the former coming in to score when an attempt to nail him at third sailed past the bag.
The Wildcats answered right back with a pair of runs in the top of the second as leadoff batter Will Briley launched a first-pitch offering from Popp over the right field fence for his third round-tripper of the season.
DiBenedetto then drew a walk on four pitches, was sacrificed to second and stole third prior to coming home when Ben Buchman lofted a sacrifice fly to left.
East Chapel Hill increased its lead to 5-2 in the visitors’ third as Harris scratched a one-out infield single before Jeske, once again running for the catcher, stole second and came around to score on back-to-back wild pitches.
One out later base hits by Briley, DiBenedetto and Bashi Westphal produced a run prior to DiBenedetto being awarded home on a balk.
Northwood trimmed its deficit to 5-4 in the bottom of the fourth as Zizzy Newell lined a one-out single to left, moved to second on Landon Johnson’s base hit to right and tallied when Quin Powell raced all the way to second on a throwing error that advanced Johnson to third before Brandon Crabtree plated the latter with a groundout.
The Chargers then managed to pull even with two away in the home fifth as Tyler Johnson, Deuce Powell, Newell and Jeff Marcin drew consecutive free passes to force in a run prior to the Wildcats eventually securing the victory their final turn at-bat.