Garner Cleveland: Sports

Pirates blank Rams

Visiting Corinth Holders capitalized on almost everything county rival Cleveland gave the Pirates Saturday afternoon, spoiling the Rams’ Senior Day festivities with a 7-0 non-conference win.

What Worked: Pitching and defense carried the day for the Pirates.

Starting pitcher Sam Berman scattered four hits over his five innings of work, striking out three and hitting one batter, while relievers Jacob Lewis and Dakota Amant kept the Rams off the scoreboard in their respective one-inning stints.

Three of Cleveland’s four hits off Berman came with two out in their respective innings.

Corinth Holders’ defense came through with two third-inning gems, as left fielder Cory Shirk made a running, over-the-shoulder catch of a fly to the warning track by Chase Jackson, then second baseman Jacob Rowe laid out to stab a liner off the bat of Taylor Finn.

What Didn’t Work: A struggling defense did in the Rams, as Cleveland committed three physical errors, leading to five unearned runs for the Pirates, and a sixth-inning mental miscue allowed another Pirate to cross the plate.

Cleveland also struggled at the plate, despite out-hitting the Pirates, 7-4. After failing to advance a runner past second base against Berman, the Rams continued to have offensive woes, leaving runners on the corners against Lewis in the sixth and on first and second against Amant in the seventh, going 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

Turning Points: With Corinth Holders leading 1-0 entering the fourth, Shirk singled to center and moved to second when the Rams had trouble fielding a bunt by Oakley Wallrich and threw wildly to first. Following a wild pitch that advanced the runners, Adam Evans’ bunt was mishandled, allowing Shirk to score.

Wallrich advanced to third on the error and scored moments later on a grounder for a 3-0 Pirates lead.

A pair of errors, which enabled the Pirates to blow the game open in the fifth. After Rowe singled to open the frame, an error allowed Brock Waynik to reach.

Cleveland’s woes multiplied on the next batter, when Amant laid down a bunt, which was thrown wildly over first base, allowing Rowe and Waynik to score and Amant to hustle to third. Amant came home on a wild pitch, giving the Pirates a 6-0 cushion.

Quotable: “We have a goal,” said Pirates coach Jeff Parker. “We play small ball: try to get a run an inning, get a lead-off man on with no outs and go with a bunt to get him to second base.

“That happened a couple of times today - we put it down, they couldn’t make a play and when they tried to make a play, they threw it away and gave us runners on second and third and we even scored on a throw-away.”

Said Cleveland coach Jamie Lee: “They did what they had to do. They moved runners around when they had to, and made great plays when we had runners on base. We play again on Tuesday night, and I guarantee you’ll see a different (Cleveland) team than the one today.”

Moving Ahead: Corinth Holders, which improved to 14-6 overall and is 8-4 in the Northern Carolina 2A Conference, wraps up with a trio of Senior Day games, as well as the regular season, hosting Louisburg Tuesday and journeying to North Johnston Friday.

The Pirates, in a three-way logjam for second with Louisburg and Roanoke Rapids, can finish anywhere between second and fifth in the standings.

Cleveland, which saw its three-game winning streak snapped, fell to 11-11 overall and stands 6-6 in the Eastern Carolina 3A Conference, opened ECC tournament play on Tuesday.