After three straight one-run losses, the Apex baseball team needed a decisive win for its collective psyche when it took on Athens Drive Tuesday evening on its home field.
The Cougars got just that. Apex handled the Jaguars a 5-2 defeat in a Southwest Wake Athletic Conference game.
Apex (6-8, 3-6) received six solid innings from righty junior James Hooks and a four-run fourth to put the game out of reach. Athens Drive (5-9, 3-6) got a two-run double from Jake Tully in the fifth to cut into a 5-0 deficit but managed just a single the rest of the way.
Turning point: After generating a run on a sacrifice bunt by Jake Molden in the third for a 1-0 lead, Apex erupted for four more runs in the fourth. Cameron Mason, Aaron Prickett and Ben Highfill sparked the offense by rocking consecutive doubles.
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Prickett knocked in a pair of runs with his two-bagger for a 4-0 lead and did so despite the offering not being in the strike zone.
“It was low and outside but I was able to lunge for it and hit the pitch,” Prickett said. “It feels good to contribute to a win like that.”
Unsung hero: Athens Drive first baseman Brandon Farley made a terrific diving grab of a scorching liner to rob Hooks of an extra-base hit in the first inning. Farley then tagged first base to double-off a baserunner.
What worked: For Apex, pitching and offense keyed the Cougars first win in four outings. Hooks induced a double-play ball to end the third inning and a grounder to halt the fourth, fifth and six frames before Matt Rogers came on in the seventh to shut the door on the Jaguars.
“They knew my fastball was coming but I was able to throw it on the outside and inside corner of the plate,” Hooks said. “I also got ahead in the count and put pressure on their batters.”
Needs improvement: Both teams made above-average plays at times on defense but had two errors each.
Athens Drive assistant coach Jeremy Cleveland, filling in for an injured head coach Ryan Westbrook, would have liked to see more clutch hitting from the Jaguars as well.
“We didn't put runs up on the board and you can't do that against a very good team like Apex,” Cleveland said. “Now we'll look to earn a series split on Wednesday.”
Best quote: “James has given us a solid outing each time out,” Apex coach Mike Valder said of Hooks. “He's a battler out there and that's what you like to see from your starter.”