When Cary Christian opened its game against Cary Academy with three consecutive hits, one wondered how long Chargers starter Spencer Reed would last.
Reed ended up going the entire six innings in what turned out to be a dominant performance that helped Cary Academy (3-0) beat the Knights 11-1 on Tuesday night.
The Chargers ended the game in the sixth with a 10-run lead, but Reed was ready to go out for the final inning.
Turning point: Reed was an escape artist Tuesday. The junior right-hander gave up only one run in that first inning, striking out the final two Knight batters. But his Houdini act was even better in the top of fourth.
The Chargers had just pushed across three runs for a 5-1 lead, but Cary Christian (1-2) got singles from Dane Rolan and Ethan Miller to start the fourth. Reed then plunked Alan Baker to load the bases and bring Chargers coach Ray Pope to the mound.
“He’s a gamer,” Pope said. “(When) I went out there, he says, ‘Coach, I got this.’ I love to hear that.”
Reed did indeed have it, along with his defense. With Pope back in the dugout, Cary Christian’s Isaiah Rife hit a line drive that was snared by Charger second baseman Keagan Joyce, who flipped to shortstop Tyler Marshall to double Miller at second. Reed then struck out Seth Holloway to end the threat.
“I just had confidence in the players behind me and in my pitches,” Reed said. “The whole rest of the game, I was able to get out with runners on base, so I just trusted myself and the guys behind me.
“I knew I had just made a mistake and loaded the bases. I had faith in myself, and I knew coach had faith in me, which is huge from a pitching point of view.”
Highlight reel: Reed wasn’t even supposed to start Tuesday, but with catcher Alex Knott out sick, Pope had to juggle his lineup, putting scheduled starter Justin Reich behind the plate and Reed on the mound.
“Spencer said, ‘I can pitch; I’m fine. I’ll let you know if I have a problem,’” Pope said. “He was strong all night.”
Reed gave up seven hits and had three wild pitches, but he struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter.
“I didn’t really have my curveball like I wish I would’ve,” Reed said. “But I stuck with the fastball – they couldn’t keep up with it – and I changed between the two-seam and four-seam. It was really effective.”
Unsung heroes: The bottom four hitters in the Chargers order combined for five hits, four runs and six runs batted in. Designated hitter Jack Werner, a freshman in the No. 9 spot, was 2 for 3 with a double and three RBIs. Reich drove in two runs, while freshman Joe McDarris had two hits, including a game-ending double and RBI in the sixth.
Putting up numbers: Cary Christian had runners on base in four of the six innings, with sophomore shortstop Josh Van Liew going 2 for 3 and junior first-baseman Pippin Payne driving in a run with a single in the first. Plus, eighth-grader Will Moyer led off the game with a single and later scored the lone Knight run.
What worked: Cary Academy was stellar with the glove Tuesday, playing without an error. That was a confidence-booster to Reed.
“I didn’t really have a long rest, so I ended up trying to pitch to contact,” Reed said. “That’s huge, to be able to do that when you have a defense like that behind you.”
Needs improvement: Cary Christian committed five errors, but keep in mind the 2A Knights don’t have a senior on the roster and started three sophomores, three freshmen and an eighth-grader against a 3A school.
“There are going to be some mistakes,” Knights coach Ron Stogner said. “We haven’t stepped on the field much. We had four practices before our first game, and this is only our third game. Mentally, we’ve got to get a little better. But we’ve got the physical skills to play. It’s a work in progress.
“I was actually proud of the outcome tonight. Even though we lost by a run-rule to this team, we were in it. We had runners on base (almost) every inning, we had bases loaded, nobody out and hit a line drive to the second baseman. That’s going to happen. But I thought we did well against what they had.”
Best quote: Pope on Reed and the Chargers escaping the fourth inning unscathed: “To get out of that inning and not give up any runs, that’s huge. They did a great job tonight.”
Feeling the impact: If the Chargers put the ball in play on a consistent basis, they could be a tough team to beat in the Triangle Independent Schools Athletic Conference.
“Every year we have the goal of winning conference,” Reed said. “This is a team that can definitely do it. When we put it all together, we’re a very dangerous team. We showed we could hit the ball tonight, and we’ve got great defense every night we go out there.”