Middle Creek’s bats slumbered recently in what has developed into a year of high-scoring baseball in the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference.
So it was fitting that the Mustangs needed extra-innings to score enough runs for an 7-6 victory in eight innings over Apex Monday night on the Cougars’ field.
It also was appropriate the game-winning hit was a big blow, a double deep to right-center field. Designated hitter Sammy Chapman’s decisive RBI scored third baseman Robbie Frongello from second in the top of the eighth. Frongello had led off with a single and advanced to second on catcher John D’ercole’s sacrifice bunt.
“It feels nice to get some runs and help our pitchers out,” Chapman said. “It was a great team win.”
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Long ball and small ball: Ironically, Middle Creek played small ball on Chapman’s previous at bat in the sixth when head coach Wesley King pinch-hit David Allen for his bunting ability. Allen executed the bunt as well as ending up reaching first base on a throwing error that allowed D’ercole to advance to third. D’ercole scored one batter later on a wild pitch to tie the game 6-6.
Chapman returned to the game through high school baseball’s re-entry rule for some long ball with his timely double. He praised Allen for his execution while explaining he didn’t let the King’s pinch-hit decision distract him.
“I knew the pitcher up was throwing a lot of fastballs,” Chapman said. “It was dead red. I got a good pitch and I put a good piece on it.”
Feeling the impact: Middle Creek had dropped two of three conference games in a 4-2 loss to Fuquay-Varina and falling 6-4 to Athens Drive. But the No. 4-ranked Mustangs improved to 11-3 overall and 5-3 in the SWAC with the victory.
The loss was Apex’s second straight one-run defeat in what otherwise could be a four-game winning streak. After beating Panther Creek 8-4 and Green Hope 10-2, the Cougars lost to Holly Springs 13-12 before hosting Middle Creek.
Apex battled back from a 5-1 deficit in the second inning to take a 6-5 lead in the fourth before falling to 5-7 overall and 2-5 in conference play.
“I’m really proud of this group for battling back,” Apex head coach Mike Valder said. “We just couldn’t manage to get that last run across.”
Focused pitching: Middle Creek senior Langdon Wilson picked up the win with five shutout innings in relief despite several full-counts on batters. He entered the game with runners on base in the fourth before a run scored, but he recorded all three outs for five official shutout innings.
“There was a lot of stuff going on that threw us off mentally,” Wilson said. “But we had to stay focused. I had to focus on staying in the zone.”
Middle Creek scoring: Right-fielder Zeke Barefoot, battling leadoff, was 2 of 4 with two runs scored and one RBI.
Apex scoring: Freshman right-fielder C.J. Conrad was 1 of 3 with one run scored and one RBI and junior center-fielder Esteban Valencia was 1 of 4 with one run scored and one RBI.