CHERRYVILLEâ€”Despite a 6-1 loss to Cherryville Friday night, North Lincoln`s baseball team has been a pleasant surprise in its first season.
It may something to do with coach Sean Andrews` low-key approach.
“I am not putting any pressure on the guys this year. I told them just to come out and enjoy the game. They are supposed to be young, so I tell them just to show people what they can do,” said Andrews.
The Knights (4-7, 1-2 Southern Foothills 1A) certainly showed Friday they could compete against a powerhouse program. North Lincoln trailed only 3-1 before Cherryville`s Brock Alexander blasted a three-run homer in the fifth inning to put the game away.
“We will take a close game against the No. 8 or No. 9 team in the state,” said Andrews. “We are battling. We are not giving up.”
North Lincoln`s Chris Hogue made the mistake of serving up a fastball down the middle of the plate. Alexander drove the pitch over the center field fence near the 375-foot sign to give the Ironmen (8-2, 3-0 SF1A) a 6-1 lead.
After the decisive homer, Cherryville righthander Steven Justice was even more effective than he had been in the early innings. Justice retired the Knights in order in the fifth and sixth frames and closed out North Lincoln in the seventh with the aid of a double play.
In addition to the pitching mistake by Hogue, the Knights hurt themselves with two throwing errors that led directly to two Cherryville runs.
“Errors killed us,” summed up Andrews. “And Brock (Alexander) hit a ball right down the middle that was supposed to be outside.”
Josh Glover had two of Cherryville`s four hits, a solo homer in the first and a no-out single in the fifth that set up the stage for Alexander`s heroics. Freshman Trent Hopkins homered in the second inning for North Lincoln to briefly tie the game.
Justice improved to 2-1 with the win, while Hogue absorbed the loss to fall to 2-3. Josh Belk relieved Hogue in the bottom of the sixth and retired the side.
“Justice threw real well. He came right at us. When we got on his fastball, he started throwing his curve and slider,” Andrews said of Andrews, who struck out five and walked one.
Still, the young Knights proved they are a team to watch in the future.
“We have four juniors, five freshmen, and the rest are sophomores,” said Andrews. “This is a fun year. Maybe next year I will put a little more pressure on them. But I think the nucleus is here.”
The highlights for the Knights in their inaugural season include wins over county foes West Lincoln and East Lincoln, and a competitive contest against Southern Foothills 1A contender Hendersonville.
NL 010 000 0–1 4 3
Ch 101 130 x–6 4 1
Hogue, Belk (6) and Borders. Justice and Glover.W–Justice. L–Hogue. HRs, North Lincoln, Hopkins; Cherryville, Glover, Alexander.
by Amy Wadsworth