Chapel Hill High School’s recent home-and-home baseball series against Northwood captured the duality of coaching.
On Tuesday, the Tigers took the opener 3-2 behind a complete game three-hitter from Sam Sisk.
Chapel Hill coach Lee Land had heard his team talk about overcoming Big Eight powers Orange and Northwood to win the conference championship. He left the park that night thinking that wasn’t all bloviating.
Then came Tuesday in Pittsboro. Northwood’s Patrick Szczypinski tossed a three-hit shutout and the Chargers rolled to a 7-0 win.
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Land was so ready to put the night behind him that he was the first person out of the CHHS dugout, nearly eluding reporters on his way to the team bus.
“We had a hard time dealing with a lot of things tonight,” said Land. “We couldn’t field the ball, catch the ball, throw the ball. Couldn’t make the pitches. He (Szczypinski) was really good, but he was the least of our problems. We beat ourselves.”
The only serious threat by Chapel Hill (6-2, 3-1 Big Eight) Tuesday came in the first inning when leadoff batter Nick Hebert reached on a bunt single. Hebert wound up at third after a sacrifice bunt by Garrett Welch and a groudout by Andrew Miller, but Matt Dayton grounded out to shortstop Logan Crabtree.
It was the only time all night that CHHS had a runner reach third base.
Leading 1-0, Northwood (5-2, 3-1 Big Eight) put the game out of reach with six runs in the bottom of the second. Northwood batted around its order in the second, with 10 Chargers appearing at the plate.
The biggest blow came from a two-run, opposite-field single by Szczypinski, the last of five consecutive Chargers to reach base in the inning. Jacob Sipe also connected on a two-run single in the second.
Northwood first-baseman Connor Leinbach finished the night 2-for-2 with a double and two walks.
Connor Stough was the only Tiger to reach base twice in the game, walking once and later singling in the sixth.
The loss ended a four-game winning streak for the Tigers, who have the annual Hilltop Invitational Tournament coming up this week.
“We’ve had a good start to the year,” said Land. “I’m not disappointed with where we’re at. Our two losses have been games where we’ve come out flat and didn’t come prepared. The guys have talked about winning a conference championship.
“You’ve gotta play 24 games hard, and if you don’t, games like this are going to come back to haunt you by the end of the year.”
Games 1 and 2 of the CHHS-Northwood series hardly could have been more different, he noted.
In Game 1 on March 24 at Tiger Stadium, Hebert, Blake Rasnake and Andrew Miller each went 1-for-2 against Northwood’s solid pitching, with Miller batting in two runs. Matt Dayton and Sisk both were 1-for-3 at the plate as Chapel Hill had seven hits total.
Sisk worked all seven inning on the mound, striking out 11 Chargers and walking just three.
But Chapel Hill committed three errors in Game 1 and four errors Tuesday. Northwood likewise had three errors in Game 1 but only one Tuesday.
“I think we have the pitching depth,” said Land. “I’m not concerned about our depth right now as much as our approach to playing right now. It’s something we have to fix.”
Chapel Hill schools are on spring break through Friday, but Chapel Hill is scheduled for three games in three days of HIT baseball action this week. The Tigers are scheduled to host Burlington Williams on Thursday, Durham Riverside on Friday and the Tallmadge (Ga.) Blue Devils on Saturday.
Before coming to Chapel Hill two years ago, Land coached at Riverside, where he pitched as a high school player.
Continuing its conference season, Northwood is scheduled to host Cardinal Gibbons (5-1, 1-1 Big Eight) at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the home portion of a two-game series that should help decide the first-half leaders in the Big Eight. Northwood is scheduled to play Game 2 of the series at 6 p.m. Thursday at Cardinal Gibbons.