Smithfield: Sports

Corinth Holders’ baseball ship back on track

After listing throughout the middle portion of its schedule, Corinth Holders’ baseball team may have righted the ship just in time to sail full speed ahead into the postseason.

Following a lull which saw the Pirates drop six of eight games, Corinth Holders continued to repair those damages with its fourth consecutive win Friday night, an 8-2 win over Northern Carolina 2A Conference rival North Johnston.

The victory was especially sweet, not because it spoiled North Johnston’s Senior Day festivities and snapped its four-game winning streak or that it avenged a March 27, 4-3, loss to the Panthers that began the tailspin. Nor the fact it kept the Pirates, now 15-6 overall and 9-4 in conference action, in the hunt for the second seed from the NCC in the upcoming state playoffs. Corinth Holders’ seeding was dependent on its fate in two games this week – the regular-season finale against Louisburg on Monday and a seeding game against either Roanoke Rapids or Louisburg.

What it did was signal the Pirates are once again playing at the level they were before the mid-season slide.

“We made a statement to ourselves four games ago,” said Pirates coach Jeff Parker, “When there was a big lock-up from first to fifth in our conference. Ever since then, our motto has been, ‘One game at a time.’”

Parker explained at the beginning of the season, when the Pirates opened with a 9-0 record, the players began thinking ahead, looking forward to what they could or would be able to do in the playoffs.

But the pre-Spring break loss to the Panthers launched themed-season slump, and also brought about a renewed approach to the season.

“It’s only been one game at a time,” Parker said, “And we’re only talking about one game at a time -- and that’s been working.”

What also has been working has been the bats of the Pirates, who banged out 10 hits off Panthers pitching.

“We’re back to getting the key hits when we need to,” Parker said. “The way we were doing at the beginning of the year.”

Those hits began with leadoff batter Jacob Rowe, who smacked the opening pitch into left field for a triple.

He had to be taken from the game and evaluated for a blow to the head, incurred on the throw to third base, but returned to the game in the fourth hammering a lead-off triple in the sixth.

Brock Waynik followed Rowe’s triple with a double into the left field corner for a 1-0 Pirates lead.

Corinth Holders broke the game open in the fifth, taking advantage of five walks and three wild pitches for four runs, then added single markers n the sixth and seventh innings.

Rowe was 2-for-2 at the plate, while Oakley Walrich went 3-for-4 and Brock Waynik was 2-for-4.

But it wasn’t just the bats that gave the Pirates this win. Junior right-hander Sam Berman delivered his second strong start in as many outings, limiting the Panthers to one run on one hit over six innings. Berman, who fanned six batters, had a perfect game entering the sixth inning, but lot that when leadoff batter Tyler Edwards reached on an error.

Edwards stole second and third, then scored on a grounder by Dawson Bowen to end the shutout.Berman kept the no-hitter going by retiring the next batter, but a clean two-out single to right by Caleb Byrd spoiled the gem.

“He pounded the strike zone and made them swing the bat, keeping it low and making them hit ground balls,” Parker said of Berman. “When we keep the ball low and make the other team hit grounders, we win games.”

North Johnston, which dipped to 10-13 overall and 7-7 in the NCC, will be the conference’s No. 5 seed and will open the playoffs on the road against either North Pitt or Greene Central.

“We were near the bottom of the conference and were playing terribly,” said Panthers coach Brian Ford. “And I think we used so much energy to get us back in the playoff in the last four or five games, that I told our guys, this type of game was bound to happen - you will have one of those nights.”