Entering Monday’s rivalry game against East Wake, the Knightdale baseball team knew it needed to start scoring more runs.
And score more runs the Knights did.
Knightdale routed East Wake 17-2 in five innings, lighting up three different Warriors pitchers for 14 hits and pushing 10 different baserunners across home plate in a dominant performance.
“We came out early and put up five (runs in second inning), then we relaxed and just kept hitting the ball,” said Knightdale coach Andrew Vaglio, whose team had been shut out in four of its last seven games.
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The visiting Knights (3-10, 3-3 Greater Neuse River 4A Conference) jumped out to a 5-0 lead over the Warriors (1-10, 1-5) after the second inning, then added another seven runs in the fifth inning to stretch what was a 10-2 lead into mercy-rule territory.
East Wake scored both its runs in the third inning, with RBI singles from Kyle Boyette and Davis Cockrell pushing Quez Holden and Boyette across the plate.
Putting up numbers: Knightdale’s batting success was shared across the board – all nine batters recorded at least one hit and one run.
Austin Vernon tallied his team’s first hit of the night and went on to go 4-for-4 with three RBIs. Matt Wall went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Jake Massing, who blasted a 360-foot home run over the center field fence to cap the Knights’ second-inning explosion, also went 2-for-4.
Unsung hero: Although all the credit for the victory went to Knightdale’s batting, pitcher Jake DeShields also proved difficult for East Wake to solve.
DeShields allowed just four hits and struck out five during his five-inning performance on the mound, ending four of those innings with a demoralizing strikeout for the third out.
“He made them try to beat us with his best pitch, and his fastball (and) slider were on,” Vaglio said. “DeShields did a pretty good job for us.”
Needs improvement: East Wake coach Derek Matthews cycled through three different pitchers in an attempt to stop the flood of hits into the outfield, but couldn’t find the right guy on the mound.
“We play best when pitchers throw strikes,” Matthews said after a long post-game discussion with his team. “We can’t make excuses. We walk people, we make errors, and we’re not going to win a lot of ballgames like that.”
Will Davis started for the Warriors, but allowed six runs and six hits in just 2.1 innings. Neither Juan De La Cruz (0.2 IP, 4 runs, 3 hits) nor Cockrell (2.0 IP, 7 runs, 5 hits) fared much better in relief.
Feeling the impact: Injuries are also taking their toll on East Wake’s team chemistry.
With his starting shortstop, third baseman and left fielder all currently injured, Matthews is struggling to find depth within his squad needed to fill the vacancies in the lineup.
“When a starter goes down, you find somebody to step in and get the job done. And we’re still looking (for that somebody) right now,” he said.
Moving forward: On the opposite side, Vaglio hopes the decisive win and explosive performance will give Knightdale – which moved back to .500 in the GNRC with the victory – a boost in the critical weeks ahead.
“I think this helps our confidence a lot and gets us back into the conference race,” he said.