PITTSBORO - Now that Northwood has suffered a loss, more than a month into the high school baseball season, the Chargers intend to use the experience to their benefit.
They’re taking this first weekend of their spring break to reflect on their mistakes and any potential weaknesses, then they’ll come back midweek, devoid of any pressures to maintain a perfect record, says head coach Rick Parks.
"We’ll take a couple of days off," Parks said Friday night. "We’ll pick right back up on Wednesday and get right back to it."
In its first game since losing last week, Northwood (10-1) will play Richmond County (10-5) in Thursday’s first round of the Sandhills Easter Invitational at Southern Lee. The three-day tournament runs through Saturday.
Randleman (15-1) became the first team to beat Northwood this year, earning a 2-0 win on Friday. The game began under perfect conditions at the Chargers’ Ronald Horton Baseball Complex, with a rainbow glowing in the southeastern sky at sunset as a full moon rose behind centerfield, and ended just as a heavy rain began to fall.
"This was a kind of reality check for some of us," Parks said. "It might have brought us down to earth a little bit, if we were floating too high. "
Much like he did with the Easter Invitational, Parks scheduled the annual meeting with Randleman as a mid-season test for his Chargers.
"This game is a good gauge for us, to see how good we are," said parks, who coached some of the Tigers to a silver medal in last summer’s State Games. He noted three of them are heading for NCAA Div. I teams next fall.
"They are so good. They have such a great baseball players," he said. "This is the sort of team I want us to be competitive with."
The defending 2A state champion, Randleman is coached by Parks’ Guilford College teammate and roommate Van Hurley, still his friend and one of the very few coaches to have a winning series record (7-1) against Northwood.
"We play every year, and it’s always a big game for us," Hurley said. "It always turns out like this, really close … 1-0 or 2-0.
"That’s a quality baseball team. That’s a big win for us."
Randleman’s unbeaten right-hander Easton Welch (5-0) pitched for the win, scattering three hits over a complete seven innings of work. He walked just two batters and struck out nine.
Backed by a superb defense, Welch was so ruthlessly efficient that he only had to face 25 batters —four over the minimum for a seven-inning high school game.
Northwood left just three men on base. The Chargers twice hit into double plays to clear the bags, and another Charger was erased on a fielder’s choice put-out at second.
Welch truly erred only once — an ill-considered pickoff attempt in the third inning of Andrew Webster, after he became the first Charger to reach base. As the Tigers chased Welch’s errant throw nearly into the woods past the home dugout, Webster sped all the way to third.
Welch atoned by striking out the next three Chargers.
"Easton did a really good job on the mound. He’s been quality for us all year," Hurley said. "And we made some big defensive plays, the type of plays we been making all year to tell you the truth. That’s a great thing to have especially when you have great pitching."
Welch helped himself at the plate with a single to lead off a three-hit sixth inning. He scored on a single by centerfielder Tyler Walls.
Wall went 2-3 to lead the Tigers at the plate, and he scored what proved to be the game-winning run in the first inning. After leading off with a walk and moving to third on a double by catcher Will Albertson, Walls scored when second-baseman Cody Trogden was throw out at first.
Trogden later hit a triple in the third, but became one of 11 Tigers left stranded.
Connor Lawrence (2-1) took the loss after giving up a mere three hits (of a total six for the Tigers) and one run over four innings.
"Northwood has a lot of arms, some really good pitchers," Hurley said. "They’ve got pitching. They’ve got hitting. And they play excellent defense. They are a really talented baseball team. They are going to do some real damage this year." RAN
100 001 0 — 2 60 NWD
000 000 0 — 0 3 1
WP-Welch (5-0), LP
Leading Hitters: RAN—Walls 2-3, RBI; Albertson 1-4, 2B; Trogdon 2-4, 3B, GW-RBI. NWD—Webster 2-2, HBP; Riggsbee 1-2.
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