When a pitcher is getting ahead in the count and locating his pitches, it makes it awfully hard on the opponent. Thatâ€™s what the North Lincoln Knights ran into Friday afternoon in right-handed pitcher Chris Henderson in an 8-1 loss at West Lincoln.
Henderson was one out away from getting into the fifth inning with the a no-hitter when Josh Belk had other plans. With two outs, the Rebelsâ€™ infield were playing deep.
Belk hit a ball right down the third baseline that made it nearly impossible for third baseman Heath Cole to make a play on. Cole fielded the ball cleanly, but before he was in throwing motion Belk was nearing first base for a hit.
â€œWe were well aware he had a no-hitter going. I was wishing we werenâ€™t playing so deep with two outs. We play deeper with two outs. Unfortunately, that came at a time when we were playing deep. Otherwise, Heath would have made the play,â€ Rebels head coach Allan Chapman said.
Catcher Devin Borders laced a ball into left field scoring Belk to break up the shutout a batter later. It was one of the few things that didnâ€™t go Hendersonâ€™s way.
The junior threw only 60 pitches, working a complete game, striking out four and walking none. He located his fastball with pin-point accuracy, mixing in a curve and a change-up to keep the Knights off balance.
â€œHe located the ball really well. A lot of times, Chris has the mindset of being a power pitcher, but I think he went to the mound more so trying to get outs early in the pitch count. By throwing strikes early, getting ahead of batters, he forced them to swing at the first pitch,â€ Chapman said.
After Daniel Scronce and Dustin Hester both singled in the top of the third, Paul Finger drove in Scronce to give the Rebels a 1-0 lead. Henderson helped himself out, the next batter, crushing a ball to deep left scoring Hester and Finger for a 3-0 lead.
Freshman Jake Watts had a sac. fly RBI in the fourth inning to pad the lead. A Knightsâ€™ wild pitch scored Jeremy Pearson to make it 5-1 in the bottom of the fifth.
With Henderson cruising, it was all the Rebels would need en route to their second victory of the season.
At one point, Henderson had retired 14 straight batters. After the game, he chose to give credit to his defense.
â€œIt was my defense. They did a really good job. The opponents are really good, we just came out here ready to play and I think my defense backed me up really good today,â€ Henderson, who was unaware he had a no-hitter going, humbly said.
â€œIâ€™m supposed to do my job. My job is to pitch and theirs is to back me up and help me get outs and they done a better job than I did, I thought,â€ Henderson said.
Hester and Finger both went 2-for-4 with a RBI apiece. Jonathan Thomas was 2-for-2. Henderson led the Rebels with two RBIs.
Belk and Borders led North Lincoln going 1-for-2 each. Sophomore first baseman Trent Hopkins blasted a ball to deep right and a ball to deep left that were caught on the warning track, due to the Rebels playing him deep. He also had threw out a runner at home to prevent a run in bottom of the third.
Borders made a Jeter-esque flip to prevent another would-be Rebelsâ€™ run in the bottom of the fifth.
The Knights are 0-2 on the season.
With Kyle Baker and Alex Loftin joining the team late, Chapman believes the Knights will continue to mesh as the season progresses.
â€œWe realize a lot of their basketball players are still trying to get into baseball shape and thatâ€™s not the best baseball theyâ€™re going to play. I feel like theyâ€™re going to be very competitive in their league,â€ he said.
North Lincoln 000 010 0â€”1 2 5
West Lincoln 003 113 xâ€”8 9 0
The Rebels fell to Bessemer City 6-5 Saturday snapping their early-season win streak.
The Jackets hit back-to-back three-run homers in first and second innings. Daniel Styers and Shane Whitlock gave Bessemer an early 6-1 lead.
Dustin Hester tried to help his team rally, belting a two-run RBI single in the top of the second to narrow the gap to 6-3.
The pitching of sophomore southpaw Ryan Rhodes kept the Rebels in the game, working five scoreless innings. He also struck out seven.
West Lincoln capitalized on three straight Yellow Jacketsâ€™ errors in the top of seventh. Another sophomore Payden Houser delivered hitting a two-run double down the right-field line.
Jake Rhyne earned the win for Bessemer City pitching six innings, while striking out five. Derrik Boggs suffered the loss.
Cole Reynolds and Heath Cole also picked up hits for West Lincoln.
Chapman was pleased with Rhodesâ€™ relief performance.
â€œRyan was phenomenal. He threw the ball well, he located it well. He threw different pitches in different counts. He really kept them off-balance and gave us a chance to get back in it,â€ he said.
He was also pleased with the defense his team has played over the last two games.
â€œWe didnâ€™t make an error against North Lincoln and we followed that up with one error on a real tough play. Back-to-back games with only one error, weâ€™re going to be very competitive,â€ Chapman said.
â€œI was very disappointed in only getting four hits, but weâ€™re still playing a lot of young kids. With that, I guess there are going to be some inconsistencies,â€ he added.
West Lincoln 120 000 2â€”5 4 1
Bessemer City 330 000 xâ€”6 7 3
by John Mark Brooks