East Chapel Hill 2, Northern Durham 0:
Published: May 01, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: May 02, 2012 05:25 PM
'Cats get a one-hit wonder of a win
Wildcats get a one-hit wonder of a win against Knights
DURHAM - East Chapel Hill only managed five hits against Northern Durham right-hander Zack Garrison last Friday. The Wildcats only needed two.That’s because East Chapel Hill ace Max Hoffman threw a complete-game for a 2-0 win and limited the Knights to one hit as the Wildcats won for the eighth time in nine conference games to maintain their place near the top of the Piedmont athletic conference standings.“Northern is a tough, tough club,” East coach Phil Woodell said. “They can give any team in our league a hard time, but they’re going to be a real handful when those kids get a little bit older. We came over here knowing they were good.”Jordan (16-5, 9-1 PAC) inched a half-game in front of East Chapel Hill (15-5, 8-1 PAC) by picking up two wins last week – 9-0 against Hillside and 16-4 against Southern Durham – while the Wildcats took a break from conference play to get a 7-4 win over Union Pines out of the Cape Fear Valley 3A league.East Chapel Hill and Jordan split their regular-season games head-to-head. If they both win out, that would mean a playoff for first place before the NCHSAA post-season.East went into last Friday’s game knowing that Garrison, a 6-1 junior with a good curve ball, had the team’s best W-L record (2-1) and a 3.75 ERA, and that Knights (7-12, 4-6 PAC) had allowed the league’s fewest runs until an 11-8 loss to Jordan.“This was a huge game,” Hoffman said. “We know Northern is a great team, and that they can beat just about anybody.”Garrison struck out eight Wildcats and walked just one, but they touched him twice in the top of the fifth, when he started the inning by walking second-baseman Henry Branson and then moved him over to second on a balk. The next Wildcat up, sophomore third-baseman Josh Baldwin, faced two strikes before planting solid shot into right field to score Branson from second.Baldwin advanced to second with a bunt by Hoffman and to third on a wild pitch. East shortstop Jake Hankins drove him in with a single into the left-center gap.“They’re a good team, and their pitcher did almost as well as Max,” said Hankins, who went 1-for-3. “It was a close game until we got those two hits.”Northern’s scorebook credited the Knights with two hits, but that was awarding a hit to A.J. Bumpass for a bouncing ball down the first-base line that slipped off the infielder’s glove and into right field.Bumpass ended up being one of the five Knights left on base; four others got picked off by Hoffman or ran into a double play at second.Still working to regain 100 percent control of his effective changeup since straining his back in a complete-game, PAC-6 win at Riverside, Hoffman struck out five, walked five and hit two Knights.Hoffman never allowed a Knight past second base, but he fretted a bit after walking two in the sixth, allowing the potential tying run to second before the next two batters lined out.“We talked between innings and I felt he’s earned that right to stay in,” Woodell said. “I asked him if he was OK and he said ‘yes.’ We’ve been in this situation before, and he’s always been honest with me; he’s earned my respect. And I thought he was throwing the ball pretty well, anyway.”In 2011, Hoffman had a perfect game heading into the seventh against Northern before settling for a 6-1 win. He didn’t want the Knights to get off the hook last Friday.“I wanted to stay in, but I told coach (Woodell) that if I walk someone, then it’s about time for him to take me out,” Hoffman said. Hoffman (4-2) hit a batter to let a man on in the seventh, but struck out two of the three Knights he faced in the last inning.The win puts East Chapel Hill within sight of its first PAC-6 title in school history, but the ’Cats weren’t taking anything for granted with three conference games left to go – against a team they “10-runned” in their first meeting (Southern), one they shut out (Hillside) and one that had a three-game win streak coming into this week (Roxboro Person).