Shaking off any deleterious effects of freezing temperatures that descended on Tiger Field last Wednesday, Chapel Hill got off to a good start in its opening game under first-year baseball head coach Lee Land.
The Tigers defeated Northern Durham 16-6, and did so in impressive fashion for such a young team.
Chapel Hill fell behind early and then fought off a 4-run rally by Northern in the top of the third inning to “10-run-rule” the Knights.
“Our guys played with a lot of energy and with a lot of heart,” Land said. “They’ve set the bar really high for the rest of the season.”
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Chapel Hill had lost two straight and three of its previous four games with 4A Northern.
Land played high school ball for Northern’s arch-rival, Riverside, and later coached the Pirates. He understood better than most how much beating Northern in the season-opener meant to his Tigers. “Some of our guys were talking about yesterday, that they had not performed well against Northern in recent games,” Land said. “They knew we had a good shot right here at the start of the year, and we wanted to come out strong. And we did.”
Despite the cold conditions, the two teams combined for 23 hits Wednesday, with the Tigers getting 13.
Led by Andrew Miller’s 4-for-4 performance, just about every Chapel Hill batter got at least one hit, and those that didn’t produced a RBI with either a sacrifice or a walk. Roy Huang went 3-4 at the plate, while Blake Rasnake, Ian Templeton, Sam Sisk, Garrett Welsh and Nick Herbert each got at least one hit. Matt Dayton went 0-2 but walked twice, driving in a run each time, and scored once himself.
Templeton, playing first base, is one of just three seniors on the CHHS roster, along with outfielder Cameron Grant and catcher Max Lemoine.
“Tonight, everybody helped with the win. We hit well top to bottom,” Land said. “When I post my lineup, I feel confident that everybody in there can contribute. Tonight everyone did.
“It won’t be like that every game, but it was nice to do it in the first game. The guys got some confidence going early in the year, and hopefully we can ride that for a little bit.”
Chapel Hill righthander Jeff Williams got the start on the mound and struck out four while walking two Knights.
When Northern mounted a rally in the third inning and pulled ahead 6-4, Land went with righthander Quint McFall, who picked up the win. McFall gave up one hit in each of his first two innings of work but zero earned runs and he struck out three of the last five batters he faced.
Chapel Hill exploded for five runs in the bottom of the third and then seven as it batted around in the fourth.
With temperatures already dipping into the 30s, spectators were pleased to see Northern unable to cut into Chapel Hill 10-run lead in the fifth, ending the game.
East, Orange win
Other area baseball teams got off to good starts, too, last week.
In Clayton, Eat Chapel Hill opened is season with a 4-2 win over Cleveland. John Page started on the mound and struck out five while walking three to hold the Rams scoreless over 4.2 innings. Page also went 4-for-4 at the plate with a double.
Josh Baldwin went 2-4 for East while junior D.J. Recney and sophomore Sean Moore each produced RBI doubles. Moore also took the mound in the fifth and recorded the win, striking out four and walking none.
In Hillsborough, Orange opened with a 3-1 win over Eastern Alamance. Orange starter Jordan Toney recorded the win. He and relievers James Cunningham and Bryse Wilson (save) combined to give up just two hits over seven innings.
Wilson (1-2, double), Josh Kiehle, and Adam Gates (1-3, double) provided RBIs for the Panthers. McCray Williams homered for the Eagles.
Oranges next game will be at home against Graham on Wednesday.
Carrboro, Northwood and Cedar Ridge all played their season-openers too late for today’s edition of the Chapel Hill News.