Austin Harris did a little bit of everything in powering the Fuquay-Varina baseball team to a 4-2 win over Middle Creek Saturday afternoon in a Southwest Wake Athletic Conference rivalry game.
Harris, the Bengals’ starting pitcher, allowed just two runs over 5 1/3 innings, blasted a solo home and fielded his position well in helping his team improve to first place in the SWAC.
Despite lashing nine hits, including two each by Diego Guerrero, Trevor Heasley and Isaiah Herring, the visiting Mustangs (10-3, 4-3) dropped to a three-way tie for second halfway through the SWAC schedule.
Putting up numbers: The teams cracked four solo home runs between them, including three for the Bengals (7-3, 5-2) as Harris and Justin Shelton went back-to-back in the first inning and Caleb Bissette hit one out in the sixth.
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“I jumped on that pitch quickly,” Shelton said of his round-tripper. “I sat on that fastball and was able to crush it.”
Middle Creek’s Jake Forte hammered a Harris offering just over the 330-foot sign in left-center to bring the Mustangs within 2-1.
What worked: The Bengals performed well enough in all areas to notch a key conference win. Harris provided the best example, backing up his offense and pitching with solid defense. He snared a grounder hit back to him and tossed to first to end the inning.
“I was proud of our pitching and the middle of the lineup today,” said Fuquay-Varina coach Milton Senter.
Needs improvement: Despite nine hits, the Mustangs mustered just two runs, stranding runners in scoring position throughout. In the key fifth frame, Tucker Rogers singled and Heasley followed with a double to put runners at second and third. Harris induced a ground out to end the threat, however.
“This was a tough game, we didn’t get any leadoff batters on until the seventh inning and it hurt us,” Middle Creek coach Wesley King said. “It made it difficult for us to get anything to put together for a potential rally.”
Unsung hero: After a Sammy Chapman RBI single brought the Mustangs within a run at 3-2 in the sixth, Bissette came on in relief of Harris and silenced a potential rally with two straight strikeouts. He also pitched a scoreless seventh with two more strikeouts to close out the win.
Best quote: Harris on mixing in his changeup occasionally to befuddle Middle Creek at key moments. “I used it just enough to mess with them a little.”