DOBSON — Ledford baseball coach Chris Adams knew his team could find success against East Surry and starting pitcher Tyler Smith if the Panthers just found a way to put the ball in play during the first day of the Surry Central Spring Break baseball tournament.
Ledford (9-3) did just that, and soft base hits combined with Cardinal errors to doom East Surry (5-7) on Wednesday as the Panthers scored six runs in the first inning and earned an 8-1 victory over the Cardinals.
“Everything that could go wrong, went wrong in the first inning,” East Surry coach Chad Freeman said. “Tyler made some good pitches, and they still got some runners on by just fisting it.”
“Ledford is a good ball club, too. They’re a very tough 3-A team. The teams around here see Tyler and they’re not used to it, but (Ledford) sees that every day.”
Ledford’s first four batters all reached base and came across to score in the top of the first. Tanner Craft blooped a single to right, Anthony Cuozzi hit safely on a swinging bunt, Luke Spiva scored a run when he reached first base on an error and Shane Werran drove in another run with an RBI single to right.
The snowball kept on rolling from there. After Smith struck out Jamie Church for the first out, it appeared like the East Surry pitcher was on a roll with another strikeout of Jefferson Rojas, but Cardinal catcher Tyler Chilton couldn’t handle the breaking ball and Rojas made it safely into first base on strike three in the dirt.
Back-to-back singles and a walk helped Ledford mount the six-run inning. The Panthers also stole three bases in the bottom of the first, putting a ton of pressure all over the East Surry defense that committed three errors on the day.
“(Ledford) just battled every pitch, and that forces you to make quality pitches every single at-bat. They have good speed as well, and it didn’t help that we kicked it around a little bit,” Coach Freeman said.
The six runs gave Ledford starting pitcher Jonathan Turner a sizable cushion. The senior righty mixed his changeup with a quality fastball to the tune of six strikeouts and just three hits allowed while turning in a complete-game performance.
“As hard as (Turner) throws, if he can locate his changeup and his curveball, he’s going to be tough to beat,” Ledford’s Coach Adams said. “I wouldn’t say he was perfect today, but we got off to such a good start that he was able to develop some confidence, and a lot of times it’s easier to pitch when you get ahead.”
East Surry’s only run of the afternoon came in the top of the sixth, when John Marion crossed home plate thanks to a balk by Turner. Luke Horton, who pitched the final two innings for East Surry, was one of just two Cardinals to record a hit on Wednesday. Tyler Chilton had the other base hit, breaking up an early no-hitter by Turner in the top of the fourth.
East Surry must now find a way to cure its offensive woes. The Cardinals have scored just one run in the past three games, including a pair of shutouts against Starmount and North Stokes.
East Surry will get a chance to awaken the bats on Thursday in day two of the Surry Central tournament. The Cardinals will take on North Iredell at 1 p.m.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16