Dean Dease doesn’t miss his evening meals, but lately he has had to postpone a few.
Of course, there’s baseball games twice a week. He gets Sundays off. The other four days are practice and – in the case of players like Eli Lockwood, Chandler Compton, Braden Weber, Johnny Flynn and others – extra batting practice.
Sometimes the sun is already down and workouts aren’t even done yet. Two-and-a-half hour practices now extend to three.
“I’m not getting any dinner, but I told them that I’ll stay as long as they want to hit,” said Dease.
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The reason why is clear. Orange (11-3) is tied with Cardinal Gibbons for first place in the Big Eight with identical 6-1 league marks. The two sides have already spilt their season series.
The Crusaders ended Orange’s 23-game conference winning streak two weeks ago in a 3-1 game where the Panthers amassed only four hits. Afterwards, Dease expressed disappointment over his offense’s inconsistent production.
While the top of the Orange order features Division I commitments Bryse Wilson and Brad Debo, it was the bottom of the lineup that triggered the Panthers’ 5-run fourth inning last Thursday night at Chapel Hill High, leading Orange past Chapel Hill 10-8.
Chapel Hill (10-6, 4-4) outhit the Panthers 14-10, including multiple hit games from Nick Hebert, Garrett Welch, Connor Stough and Andrew Miller. However, the Tigers fell victim to their own sloppiness, committing eight fielding errors, several base-running mistakes, and leaving 15 men on base.
“It’s a frustrating way to lose,” said Chapel Hill coach Lee Land. “We’ve played defense pretty well all year. We battled at the plate and stretched out at-bats. I can’t argue with our effort.”
There were plenty of mistakes to go around. Chapel Hill grabbed a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the third when Ari Horwitz scored on a single by Blake Rasnake, who finished with three hits. The inning was prolonged by a Orange miscue when a double-play ball was thrown away at second base.
Lockwod started the subsequent frame with a single, Flynn followed by reaching on an error, and Compton knocked in Lockwood with a single to centerfield to tie the game. Shortstop Cameron Mehl also reached after an errant throw, leading Flynn to score. Debo provided the biggest blow with a two-run line drive to center field that gave the Panthers an 8-4 lead.
The Panthers pushed that lead to 10-4 in the seventh when Lockwood, who walked to open the inning, scored on a RBI groundout by Compton. That run proved pivotal as CHHS rallied for four runs in the bottom of the seventh, two of which were scored off an Andrew Miller single.
Closer Landon Riley earned his second save when Parker Croswell flew out to Compton to end the game.
Orange opened the week with a 3-0 victory over the Tigers. Once with a goal of winning the Big Eight, the Tigers appear relegated to beating out a crowded race for one of the Big Eight playoff spots.
“We’ve still got to take it game-by-game,” said Land. “We can’t hang our head on this. We’ve got baseball games left, and we’ve got to win those in order to make the playoffs.”