In a battle of conference unbeatens, Northern Durham prevailed over East Chapel Hill 11-6 on Thursday night behind an eight-run explosion in the fourth inning, giving the Knights sole possession of first place in the PAC-6.
The Knights (8-4, 5-0) struck first in the bottom of the opening inning with a single into right field that brought home Tyler Mangum. But the Wildcats (8-3, 3-1) responded ferociously, scoring four runs in the second inning. The Wildcats scored again in the third inning to stretch their lead to 5-1 before Northern Durham began its comeback.
After the Knights’ leading hitter, Pete Vurnakes, reached second base on an error, Spencer Smith belted a ball out into right field that flirted with going foul before skittering along the base of the right field wall. Vurnakes reached home to trim the deficit to three and give new life to the team.
Then the hitting power of the Knights took over in the fourth inning, showcasing a lineup featuring three players who bat .400 or higher. After exiting the fourth inning leading 10-5, the Knights added a home run from Smith to put the exclamation point on the win.
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In the fourth inning, the Wildcats had two outs and lead 5-3, but eight more batters stepped up the plate for the Knights, scoring seven more runs, before they could get the third.
By the numbers
3: Official errors for East Chapel Hill during the game, including at least two during the fourth inning.
12: Hits for the Northern Durham Knights during the game. The Knights’ batting average was .387 compared to their season average of .321.
1: Home run for Northern, pushing its total to 14 in 12 games this season.
1: Hit allowed by Northern reliever Keaton Bradley. After starter Griffin Baker hit 85 pitches in three innings, Bradley stepped in and closed out the win for the Knights.
They said it
“We’re just not making plays. Outfield, infield, it doesn’t matter. We’re just not doing the things you need to do to win,” East Chapel Hill head coach Phil Woodell.
“(Bradley) wasn’t as sharp as he normally is. He’s been our go-to guys for two years now. He wasn’t sharp, but he was adequate. He’s one of our top guys, but I think us playing seven games in the last 11-12 days has took a toll on us,” Northern Durham head coach Greg Pruitt.
The win gives Northern Durham an advantage in the race for the PAC-6 title, with only Cardinal Gibbons remaining undefeated in conference play. The Knights will visit them on April 8.