Seven has proven to be the unluckiest number for the Knightdale baseball team during the early portion of the season.
On two occasions, the Knights have led by seven runs after the first inning of action – only to lose each time as part of a winless start.
The script continued for Knightdale during Thursday’s home contest against Broughton, which rallied from huge deficits twice to secure a 15-12 non-conference victory at the Knightdale Community Park.
The Knights (0-5) used a seven-spot in the bottom of the first to take charge, only to see the Caps (4-1) claw back to within 7-6 after the top of the fourth. Knightdale responded with two runs in both the fourth and fifth innings and held what looked to be a safe five-run advantage going into the top of the seventh.
But Broughton had other ideas and posted a nine-run seventh that featured five hits and two walks to go with four costly errors by the Knights. Only one of the Caps’ markers was earned.
“We gave up 11 total walks, which never helps,’’ said Knightdale coach Andrew Vaglio. “We made seven errors, including four in the last inning. When you allow 18 free baserunners like that, you can’t expect to win. We had a chance (to finish out the game), but Broughton came up with some timely hits and we made some untimely mistakes.”
Knightdale was one out away from a victory in the top of the seventh and had only allowed one run before the Caps gained momentum, beginning with an RBI single from Dylan Lamm. Two grounders that could have ended the game were instead misplayed into errors, and Whitty Williams tied the score with a two-run single. After a pitching change, Broughton went ahead to stay on Kyle Ehlers’ two-RBI base knock.
“One thing this group has done well is that we put up a good fight and don’t give up,” said Caps coach Harry Jones. “Playing that way has been good to us. We have been able to stay with it and stay consistent.”
Three to Know
Whitty Williams, Broughton: With Knightdale on the verge of pulling away, Williams entered the game on the mound in the bottom of the sixth and retired the Knights in order to give Broughton a chance. Known more for his pitching prowess, Williams hadn’t batted for the Caps this season, but Jones trusted him at the plate in the top of the seventh, and the junior responded with a clutch bases-loaded single with two outs that tied the score at 11-11.
“We’ve had two walk-off wins before this, so that shows you the chemistry we have on this team,” Williams said. “This was my first at-bat, so coach (Jones) told me to just concentrate on going to the right side of the field. I just got a good pitch to swing at. We were behind in most of the games we have won, so we didn’t get down, even when we were giving up runs.”
Jacob McCaslin, Broughton: McCaslin faced only one batter during the game, but he was able to register a save by inducing a final-out grounder after Williams had tired and was replaced with one run in and two Knights on base in the bottom of the seventh.
“(McCaslin) had been on the mound at the end of two of our three wins coming in,” Jones said. “If we needed one out, I felt like he might be the best guy to get it done. I thought we needed a change to get that last out.”
Chase Faulkner, Knightdale: The Knights’ left fielder and No. 2 hitter had quite an outing at the plate, going 4-for-5 with one double, one RBI and two runs scored.
Jones’ hunches in the seventh inning proved to be profitable, beginning with his decision to let Williams hit when the Caps were down to their final out.
“It was (Williams’) turn,” Jones said. “It’s early in the season, so we are still in the process of figuring out the way we are going to shape things. We have had some (instances) when we called on somebody, and they have come in and performed well.”
And when Williams became a bit unsettled in the bottom of the inning, Jones called on the confident McCaslin to finish out the comeback conquest.
Despite their winless record, the Knights have flashed some potential with a young team that is potent at the plate, but is still experiencing a learning curve in other aspects of the game. It hasn’t helped Knightdale’s cause that two expected starting pitchers are currently nursing injuries and are unavailable.
“We hit the ball well again (Thursday) with 12 hits,” Vaglio said. “But our pitching and defense have to change. We have been ahead in four of our five games, and we have now allowed 45 walks in 35 innings. We have talent, but we have to be able to pitch and field.”