For the second and final time in the 2015 season, the Knightdale baseball team mercy-ruled rival East Wake in five innings on Thursday.
The Knights (7-14, 7-7 Greater Neuse River 4A) cruised to a 10-0 win after jumping out to a 7-0 edge in the first two innings in what was the final game of the season for both teams.
“I wish we could play East Wake 20 times a year,” said Knightdale coach Andrew Vaglio. “It brings out the best of [us].”
Jake DeShields, one of a handful of graduating players honored by Knightdale on Senior Night, allowed just one hit while pitching 4.1 innings of the shutout effort.
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“I threw strikes, my curveball was good, I could spot my fastball but I just got a little tired in the end,” he said.
Knightdale pinch runner Michael Zlotin scored on a wild pitch to complete the walk-off win with two outs in the fifth.
The Knights had previously routed the Warriors 17-2 on April 13.
What Worked: DeShields dominated both on the mound and at the plate throughout the night.
He struck out six batters before being replaced by fellow senior Jake Massing for the final two outs. DeShields also went 2-for-2 at the plate, driving in Knightdale’s second run of the game and reaching base on his third at-bat as he was hit by a pitch.
“DeShields pitched a good game, he was all around the zone tonight,” Vaglio said. “Good pitching, good hitting and good defense gets you a ‘W.’ ”
What Didn’t Work: A mistake-filled first inning for East Wake (3-17, 3-11) allowed the Knights to jump on top early.
After a walk, a wild pitch and an outfield error, singles by DeShields and Austin Vernon pushed home the first runs of the game.
East Wake starting pitcher Kyle Boyette was pulled (allowing six hits over 1.2 innings) after the Knights scored an additional four runs in the second inning. Garrett Wall capped off the scoring explosion with a two-run homer to left field.
Putting Up Numbers: In addition to the impacts of DeShields and Wall, Logan Anderson proved to be Knightdale’s most dangerous batting threat. Anderson went 2-for-3 with 3 RBIs, including a double in the second inning and a triple in the fifth.
Will Davis provided a strong relief pitching effort for the visiting Warriors, entering the game in a bleak situation and recording nine consecutive outs (striking out three) before breaking in the game’s dying moments.
Jason Dean recorded East Wake’s only hit of the night, a single to right field during the fourth inning.
Out of Bounds: With two outs in the fifth inning and men on first and second, Anderson fouled off three pitches in the exact same way – over the tall protective fence behind home plate and onto the roof of the nearby bathrooms.
He then proceeded, on the next pitch, to blast a ball to the right field wall to score both runners and set up the final run at third base.
Moving Forward: Knightdale finished fifth in the league and East Wake sixth, both out of reach of a postseason berth. For East Wake coach Derek Matthews, the end came mercifully to conclude a tough, trying campaign.
“(We’ve) faced more adversity than I think I’ve ever seen,” Matthews said. “When your leadoff batter and team leader goes out in the second game with a torn ACL/MCL and, a week later, the No. 3 batter goes out with a broken arm ... it’s tough.”
Matthews also noted his team’s injury issues allowed five sophomores to play at the varsity level this year, however, which will build confidence and experience heading into next spring.
“We’ve got a head start on them as far as next year is concerned,” he said.
Knightdale finished the season with wins in three of its final four contests.
“We let a lot of games slip away early on this year but to finish on a good note, to beat [our] archrivals, that’s always fun,” Vaglio said. “For the seniors, it’s a good way for them to go out.”