By RYAN HERMAN
Paul Cochrane may have forgotten he was scheduled to start, but most certainly didn’t forget how to pitch.
The North Lincoln sophomore took a perfect game into the seventh inning Monday, hours after being reminded it was his turn to take the ball, and Alex Pickeral hit a three-run home run as the Knights downed the host Wolves 6-1.
North Lincoln completed the season sweep by winning 9-0 Tuesday at home.
“He actually didn’t know an hour and a half before the ballgame that he was going to start,” Knights coach Jon Carpenter said. “Paul threw a great game.”
The right-hander needed just 62 pitches to get to the seventh Monday, where perfection and the no-hit bid were broken up by Dayton Pfenning’s bloop single.
Cochrane wasn’t overpowering, having struck out only six in six perfect innings, but he relied on his breaking pitch and his defense, which provided him with some nice glovework.
“I thought my curveball was working good those six innings. I just felt like I had the perfect touch on it,” Cochrane said, “and my defense really helped me out.
“I just went up there and threw the ball.”
Lincolnton (3-13) finally figured out Cochrane in the seventh, but by then the Knights had given their starter a six-run cushion.
T.J. Carswell had RBI singles in the second and third innings, and Pickeral plated three with one swing in the third on a shot well over the fence down the line in left.
North Lincoln (11-9-1) had five hits in the third, four off starter Quinlan Turner, who left with two outs in the inning when a blister on his pitching hand gave him trouble.
Mac Harris came in and yielded the run-scoring single to Carswell, but settled in nicely to allow just one unearned run the rest of the way.
“Our approach at the plate, when we had hitter’s counts, was awful,” Wolves coach Cole Sigmon said. “(Cochrane) pitched good.”
Pfenning’s full-count base hit fell into no man’s land between right fielder Zac Reeder and a diving Carswell at second base. After a mound visit from Carpenter, Cochrane stayed in and got J.T. Bowden to fly out. He then gave up a double to the fence to Bradley Franklin, which scored Pfenning.
An error and a walk loaded the bases for Lincolnton, but Cochrane got his eighth strikeout of the night by fanning Hunter White to end the contest.
“I really wanted to (throw a perfect game), but I really just wanted to come out with a win,” Cochrane said. “That’s what’s important.”
Pickeral went 2-for-3 and was hit by a pitch, Zach Avery went 2-for-2 with a sacrifice bunt and a hit by pitch, and Carswell went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI singles.
Lincolnton was playing without two starters –– Jordon Easter and T.J. Quinn –– who were out of town due to spring break, Sigmon said.
“The boy pitched good, I’m not taking anything away from him,” Sigmon added. “If you take one out of our lineup, it kills us. If you take two, it murders us.”
NORTH LINCOLN 9
Mitchell Keener gave the Knights another stellar pitching performance, tossing six shutout innings as they picked up the season sweep of the Wolves on Tuesday at North Lincoln.
Keener gave up four hits, walked two and struck out four in the last non-conference game of the year for both teams.
Lincolnton, which stranded 10, went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
Alex Pickeral went 3-for-4 with a double, and added an RBI hit in the four-run fifth. Zac Reeder went 2-for-4 with an RBI single in the fifth, Paul Cochrane went 2-for-3 with an RBI hit in the third and reach base three times, scoring twice, and Daniel Thompson went 2-for-3 with three RBIs, a double and scored twice.
Run-scoring singles from Thompson and Bryan Seymour sandwiched around an RBI groundout by Zach McGinnis gave North Lincoln a 3-0 lead in the second.
The Knights capitalized on an error in the third when Zach Avery scored on Cochrane’s RBI hit to go up 4-0, and did the same in the fourth when Pickeral’s double turned into a run when Reeder’s hit up the middle squirted past the centerfielder.
North Lincoln put it away with four runs in the fifth. Two more Lincolnton errors led to runs on Thompson’s double, and Pickeral and Reeder plated runs with singles.
Curtis Fisher, Bradley Franklin, Quinlan Turner and Daniel McBride each singled for the Wolves. Dayton Pfenning gave up eight runs, four earned, on nine hits, walked one, hit two and struck out three in the loss.
Both teams resume conference play on Tuesday, with Lincolnton hosting West Caldwell and North Lincoln hosting Statesville.