The North Lincoln Knights are off to a 4-0 start after Saturdayâ€™s 15-2 defeat of West Iredell.
Using lights-out pitching and dominant hitting Sean Andrews crew are showing why many believe the Southern Piedmont will end in the hands of the Knights or West Lincoln.
T.J. Skidmore (1-0) pitched four innings, had six strikeouts, gave up three earned runs and allowed three walks in earning his first victory of the season.
â€œI told him he had to get ahead. He came out, got ahead and kept their hitters at bay. We are playing good defense, so he had the confidence to go ahead and let them hit it,â€ Andrews said.
Trip Miller gave up no hits, allowed no walks in retiring the Warriors one, two three in relief. Brendan Daniels was the losing pitcher.
Three times a week, Andrews, who played college baseball, pitches live to his players a tactic that seems to be paying off.
â€œI think the deal with most of my guys is confidence. Theyâ€™re going up there and everybody (the whole team) is cheering them on. I tell them first pitch fastball swing at it and thatâ€™s what he did,â€ he said of Clay Kiser.
Kiser led the Knights at the plate, accomplishing a feat rarely heard of in the same inning. The second baseman stroked a triple then legged out an-inside-the-park homerun in the second to help ignite the Knights.
Chris Hogue made the most of his two opportunities at the plate, going 2-for-2 with two runs scored and one RBI. Senior Josh Belk went 2-for-3 with one RBI and two stolen bases. Fellow senior Alex Loftin went 2-for-3, scored two runs and had one RBI.
Other leading hitters were: Trent Hopkins 2-for-4 with one RBI and two stolen bases., Aaron Price who went 1-for-1with a RBI and one scored run and Matt Hovis who went 1-for-1 with one run scored.
Through four games, the Knights are averaging 12.5 runs a game after usually beginning slow.
â€œEvery game, we donâ€™t score run in the first inning and Iâ€™m wondering are we going to get going,â€ Andrews said. â€œThen that second time around, weâ€™ve seen just about every pitch that pitcher has,â€ he added.
What has made the Knights so difficult is each player if capable of beating you at the plate, where some teams are only strong in the middle of its lineup.
â€œAlex (Loftin) is manufacturing and so is Andrew (Melton) at the top of the lineup. Then you have Josh (Belk), Trent (Hopkins) and Kyle (Baker) all very good hitters with power. I feel 1-through-9 we can hit with anybody right now,â€ Andrews said.
The Knights beat Maiden 13-3 Saturday behind a strong pitching performance from Chris Hogue.
Hogue (1-0) worked six innings, struck out 12 batters, allowed three walks and gave up two earned runs, leaving Andrews extremely pleased.
â€œHe came out and Iâ€™ve been telling him to get the first strike. He just went through the lineup, had 12 strikeouts. It wasnâ€™t until the fifth or sixth inning until he got tired and his pitch count got up,â€ he said.
The Blue Devils avoided the shutout by scoring one run in the fifth before adding two in the sixth.
Devon Duff suffered the loss. Dexter Shelton led Maiden at the plate, going 2-for-4.
Leading hitters for the Knights were:
Loftin who went 2-for-3 one RBI, Andrew Melton who went 2-for-2 with two runs scored and one RBI, Kyle Baker who went 2-for-3 with one run scored and one RBI and Clay Kiser 2-for-2 with a triple and a run scored.
Kiser played with a chip on his shoulder after being removed from a game last week. What was meant, by Andrews, to get a sophomore some valuable playing experience actually lit a fire under his second baseman.
â€œI think he (Clay) came out on Friday with something to prove. I didnâ€™t take him out for anything he did wrong. We were down 7-3 and I just wanted to get a sophomore in there,â€ Andrews said. â€œHe kinda got discouraged and we talked about it. But first at bat he had a triple,â€ he added.
Skidmore scored two runs, while Belk had three stolen bases and two runs scored.
by John Mark Brooks