DOBSON — It was feast or famine for the North Surry defense against county rival Surry Central. The Greyhounds were either really good…or they were really bad.
North Surry broke a two-game losing streak and moved back into a tie for the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference lead on Tuesday night, holding off the host Golden Eagles 3-2 despite committing four errors.
“It seemed like we didn’t have a lot of energy,” said North Surry coach Tony Martin. “A win is a win, and we’ll take them anyway we can, but we’ve got to keep working and get the bats going.”
The Hounds (11-4, 2-1) avoided paying the price for their misdeeds in the field by being superlative whenever they got pitcher Chase Chandler in trouble, or on the rare occasions when Chandler put himself in a pickle. North Surry threw out three Golden Eagle baserunners at the plate, and nabbed another one between second and third base. The Golden Eagles didn’t score until the bottom of the sixth inning, when two errors and a walk loaded the bases. A couple of groundouts got two of the runners home, but Chandler got a strikeout to stop the bleeding.
North Surry took a 1-0 lead off Central pitcher Jed Kidd in the top of the first inning. Chandler led off the game with a single to deep center field and almost immediately stole second base. A wild pitch moved him to third, and Kobe Slate’s sacrifice fly did the rest.
Central had its first chance to answer in the bottom of the third. Ryan Gordon, hitting out of the 8 hole, singled to left. Noah Wilmoth tried to bunt him to second base, but Chandler fielded it and got greedy, trying to force Gordon at second instead of taking the sure thing at first. His throw went into the dirt and off into center field, allowing both Gordon and Wilmoth to get into scoring position with no one out.
This one was on the Hounds’ senior hurler, and he saved his own bacon, striking out the next batter on a 2-2 pitch, then fielded a comebacker for the second out. This time, when Chandler got greedy, he executed it, firing home to catcher Mason Gwyn to nab Gordon at the plate. Then, with Michael Roberts batting for Central, Ethan Danley headed for second base on a delayed double steal attempt. Gwyn fired to second base, but Reid Stanley saw Wilmoth heading for the plate, cut the throw off, and fired it back to Gwyn, who tagged him out to end the inning.
McKenzie Cooke led off the North Surry fourth with a triple down the first-base line, and Gwyn singled to make it 2-0 in the Hounds’ favor. He moved into scoring position when Central catcher Chandler Daughenbaugh tried to pick Gwyn off first base, only to see the throw sail into right field. Kidd retired the next two batters, but another error, this one on a grounder by Stanley, allowed Colton Acord, who was running for Gwyn, to bring in the final North Surry run of the night.
The Eagles’ baserunning futility continued in the bottom half of the inning. Roberts and Garrett Durham each reached on balls that could only be generously described as infield singles. This time, Chandler hadn’t made the mess, but he gave his teammates a chance to redeem themselves by striking out the next man on a full-count pitch. With both runners having advanced by ths time, he induced Chandler Johnson to hit a comebacker back to the mound and again fired to Gwyn, who teamed up with Tucker to nab Roberts between third and home. Then they caught Durham trying to go to third, and this time, Tucker and Cooke executed the rundown and got him too.
“We put (Chandler) in some situations, and he bowed his back and got out of them.” said Martin. “The whole team pretty much did that from start to finish.”
Gordon had an an infield single with out out in the Central fifth and moved to second on a passed ball, but Chandler struck out the next two batters to turn away another threat.
The Golden Eagles (8-7, 2-1) finally scored in the sixth, when Danley and Roberts both reached on North Surry errors to start the frame. Durham drew a walk to load the bases, and Central got on the board thanks to back-to-back 4-6 forceouts by Tyler Myers and Johnson. Central had the tying run on base with two out, but Chandler fanned Daughenbaugh to end the inning.
In the Eagles’ seventh, Noah Wilmoth was plunked with one out and coach Martin came out to talk to his pitcher and the infield, but said he didn’t consider taking Chandler out of the game. His faith was rewarded when the last two Central batters both hit sharp grounders to Tucker at third. The junior, who had made one of the errors in the previous inning, redeemed himself by gunning down both to end the contest.
“I wasn’t considering taking (Chandler) out,” said Martin. “I just wanted to talk over the situation and make sure we were on the same page and executing.”
These teams aren’t done with each other this week. They will meet again on Friday night, this time at North Surry. The winner could move into outright first place in the league, as the Hounds and Eagles are both currently tied with South Stokes for first place.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.