J.H. Rose’s offensive duo of Greg Hardison and Tyshawn Barrett were the difference in a pitcher’s duel between crosstown rivals Thursday.
Hardison’s two hits and two runs scored, combined with Barrett’s two hits and two RBI, were the difference as the Rampants beat D.H. Conley 3-1 in the Eastern Carolina 3A/4A Conference baseball opener for both teams at Conley.
Rose improves to 7-0 overall and 1-0 in the ECC, while Conley falls to 2-2 and 0-1 in conference action.
“Hardison is the key to their team, and every time he gets on base, he’s going to score,” Vikings coach Jason Mills said. “We talked all week about keeping Hardison off the bags and we didn’t do it. ... He’s one of the best players in the state. He can make so many things happen offensively.”
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Hardison led off the game with a single, stole second base and scored on a single lined to left field by Barrett to give Rose an early advantage.
“When (Hardison) gets on base, we’ve got a chance because he scores a lot of runs,” Rose coach Ronald Vincent said. “Tyshawn is just swinging the bat great this year. He’s had a lot of big hits for us, and he has made a lot of great plays.”
Barrett led off the fourth with a single, stole second and went to third on a fielding error, but was tagged out trying to run home as Conley third baseman Brock Cross fielded a shot by Robby Wacker. The Rampants still loaded the bases thanks to a couple of Conley errors, but starter Noah Jones struck out Anthony Saieed to get out of the jam.
“We squeaked out of that one, huh?” Mills said. “I was hoping to just give up one. They had the baserunning boo-boo there. We got out of that, and Noah made some good pitches after that to get a punchout. That really helped.”
Jones was hit by the first pitch tossed in the bottom of the frame, and Robbie O’Neal followed with a single. Nick Gurkins’ sacrifice bunt advanced them to second and third with one out. A wild pitch scored Zach Byrum, pinch-running for Jones, to knot the game at 1.
Hardison and Coleman Sawyer walked to start the fifth. A towering fly ball to right field by Hunter Christopher advanced Hardison to third, and another deep sacrifice fly by Barrett got Hardison home. A sharp single by Roman Galaska off O’Neal at shortstop drove in Sawyer to stake Rose to a 3-1 lead.
Christopher was the winner on the mound for Rose. He gave just two hits – singles by O’Neal and Jones – struck out 10, walked one and hit two batters in a complete-game effort.
Vincent pointed out the improvement with the junior right-hander over last year.
“He’s throwing the ball quite a bit harder, and he’s getting his breaking ball over (the plate),” he said. “You hear coaches talk about this: He’s much more comfortable and poised on the mound.”
Jones, an East Carolina signee, took the loss.
He gave up five hits and three runs, fanned eight and walked two.
“Their pitcher was superb,” Vincent said. “Noah was throwing a nasty slider, and we had a hard time with it. And, of course, our pitcher was superb.”
The teams faced each other twice last season with D.H. Conley winning 11-3 at home and 15-0 at Rose.
Conley is replacing eight starters off a team that went 23-4 overall and 10-2 in the ECC, losing to Hoggard in the fourth round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs.
“I’m very happy about the way we played,” Mills said “We’re young. The nice thing about young teams is they grow fast, we hope.”
The Rampants are a year older and wiser, and are bearing the early fruit after playing a lot of inexperienced players who finished last season 18-8 and 7-5 in the ECC before advancing to the fourth round of the playoffs.
“We’ve got a lot of players back from last year,” Vincent said. “Hope we can keep it rolling. Our hitters did a better job this year than last year. Good win for us today.”
On Friday, J.H. Rose will face off against another county rival, South Central, at Guy Smith Stadium, while D.H. Conley treks to the Outer Banks to take on Manteo.