When East Wake has gotten behind in previous games this season, the Warriors have stayed down.
But trailing by six runs after four innings to rival Knightdale on Tuesday night, East Wake found a way to come back. Using a seven-run explosion in the top of the fifth, East Wake (7-4, 4-2 Greater Neuse River 4A) rallied to a wild 11-8 victory over the Knights.
“The one problem we’ve had all year long is when we get down like that, we’ve really hung our heads,” Warriors coach Derek Matthews said. “I was really proud that they got back up tonight. They came back for it, they fought for it. That’s one thing we haven’t had in a while.”
East Wake shortstop Coley Mizell, who scored three runs, said the difference was the opponent.
“This is a big game, a big rivalry right here between (us and) Knightdale,” Mizell said. “I just think we had a lot of fire in us from the get-go, and I’m glad we stuck with it.”
Knightdale (3-8, 1-5) scored three runs in each of the first two innings, with Ronald Parham driving in two in the first with a single and two more in the second with a triple.
Parham, batting in the third spot for the first time, scored on a Warrior error in the fourth to give his team the 8-2 lead.
“We had to keep fighting, but I could tell some people let up,” Parham said. “I wasn’t one of them; I kept trying. But things didn’t go our way.”
Knights starter Jake Deshields walked three of the first five batters he faced in the fateful fourth, with Andrew Haugh drawing a bases-loaded walk for the first run.
From there, the wheels came off. A grounder to third baseman Frank Silvestre turned into an error for another run, and Knightdale coach Andrew Vagilo swapped Silvestre for Deshields.
But the trouble kept coming. Center fielder Jonathan Sierra committed errors on back-to-back fly balls for two more runs before Silvestre uncorked a wild pitch for another run.
Jason Dean hit a sacrifice fly and Cody Alphin had a two-out single to give East Wake the lead.
“When you’re up 8-2 in the fourth inning, when you have five errors in one inning and the score goes from 8-2 to 9-8, and they had three earned runs out of their 11, certainly, you let one go,” Vagilo said. “The tone of that inning was set when our pitchers started to walk people.
“If we don’t do that, we don’t give them any life. That’s keeping your focus and keeping your mental edge and we certainly didn’t do that that inning.”
After the game, Vagilo challenged his seniors to show some leadership in pressure situations like the fourth inning.
“In tough situations, we have to have leadership,” Vagilo said. “When we’re in that fourth inning and we have pressure situations, people have to step up and make plays. We have the talent to make plays; we just didn’t do it tonight. Somebody has to want to, and that namely has to be some seniors.”
The senior Haugh stepped up big for East Wake. Relieving starter Tucker Denton, Haugh shut down the Knights, striking out four and giving up only one hit in 3 2/3 innings.
“Andrew did a heck of a job,” Matthews said. “We talk to him about what his role is: ‘When you come in, it’ll be in long relief, and it’ll be in a big situation.’
“I went out there and put him in the game when it was 8-2, and I told him, ‘Get me a win right here.’ He said, ‘Yes, sir.’ He did a great job on the mound.”