The 1991 film “Double Impact” came out well before Wake Christian junior Brandon Stephens was born, but the title perfectly describes the role he played during the Bulldogs’ 3-1 win over Ravenscroft in Friday’s conclusion of a three-game Triangle Independent Schools Athletic Conference series.
Stephens hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the third and came on in relief in the last inning, getting the final two outs to secure the win and series sweep.
“Good job of hitting by Brandon,” Wake Christian coach Randy Johnson said. “It gave us the lead we needed, 2-1. The defense was good and the pitching was good all day.”
Wake Christian freshman Zachary Guyer started on the mound and struck out five batters, only giving up one run. But it was Stephens who was brought in to finish off the Ravens.
Stephens changed the tide of the game with his bat. Down 1-0 after Ravenscroft scored on a single from Travis Schafer in the second, the Bulldogs needed some life.
With an 0-2 count, Ravenscroft pitcher Mitchell Stumpo hung one inside. Stephens took a perfect swing and the ball sailed over the left field fence for his third home run of the season.
“He threw it inside, and I didn’t think it was going out at first,” Stephens said. “It kept on carrying and gave us the 2-1 lead.”
The moment he walked back into the dugout Stephens said he could sense the difference in his teammates, who suddenly had life, and confidence.
“The atmosphere was different. I knew there was no way we were going to lose this game after that.”
Conner Collins followed with a single, while Adam Jones drove in the final run of the game moments later. Ravenscroft intentionally walked Stephens his next time at the plate and it paid off with two outs. The Ravens (6-7, 3-3) got the next batter out, and headed into the final inning down two with a chance to rally.
Guyer struck out the first Ravens batter he faced, Chris Reynolds, but Tommy Corchiani got on with a hit, then stole second and third. That’s when Johnson called Stephens back to the hill for the Bulldogs (11-6, 7-2). Stephens pitched the complete game earlier in the afternoon (the second game of the series), but the Bulldogs needed him for two more outs.
Stephens struck out Ronald Evans and Stumpo hit a dribbler right to the pitcher, who made the simple toss to first to end the game.
Even though he went the distance in the first game of the day, he only threw 75 pitches. Stephens stayed ready because he knew there was a chance his number would be called again.
“My coach said he was going to let me relieve a little bit,” Stephens said. “After that home run the adrenaline kicked in and, I don’t know, it just felt really good.”
Ravenscroft only managed four hits in the first two games combined of the series and came out swinging in the finale. That approach got them on the board first, but they only had one run to show for it. There could have been more, but a double play in the field from Wake Christian in the third killed that possibility, and any momentum the Ravens had.
“We had a steal on – that’s on me – I put the kid on a straight steal and the ball got hit up behind him. He was in a tough position and he couldn’t find the ball. That’s dumb luck on my part,” Ravenscroft coach Jim Gibbons said. “Tip your hat to Brandon Stephens, that was a monster shot that he hit for the 2-1 lead, that sort of swung the game, and he came in and closed it for them. They beat us that game and hats off to them.”
Wake Christian will look to build off the win, and hopefully stay in the hunt for the top spot in league play. The Bulldogs currently sit at No. 2 in the TISAC behind North Raleigh Christian, who beat Wake Christian twice earlier in this year.
“After dropping that first series we made a goal to sweep everybody,” Stephens said. “We are well on our way to doing that.”