DOBSON — On the surface, it was just a non-conference game sandwiched in between two early-season league tilts. But Mount Airy coach Jon Cawley freely acknowledged that this victory meant a little more to his team.
A night after winning their conference opener on the road at Atkins, the Granite Bears visited Surry Central and outplayed the Golden Eagles throughout to claim a 3-1 victory, the program’s first win over the Golden Eagles since March 15, 2013.
“Surry Central has a great baseball tradition and program, and when you find a way to come over here and win a game, you leave feeling good about yourself,” said Mount Airy coach Jon Cawley. “We’re excited. We played a good clean game tonight, and our guys deserved to win this game.”
Mount Airy (4-4 overall) used opportunistic baserunning to get runs to the plate in the second and third innings and held the lead for the rest of game, getting strong pitching from Robert Brown and Matthew Dodd and strong defense to keep the Golden Eagles at bay.
Surry Central (5-3) finally got a run in during the fifth inning, and had the bases loaded with two out in the seventh, but for the second straight night, Bear shortstop Clay Taylor made a strong defensive play in the final inning, this time ranging to his left for a sharply-hit ball by Central’s Michael Roberts, and throwing to third base for the final out of the contest.
“We made the plays tonight,” said Cawley. “Surry Central has a great field, so we didn’t get any bad hops. It was nice to play tonight on a field like this and against a team like this, and it’s even more fun when we can walk away with a win.”
Mount Airy, which had been shut out 6-0 by the Eagles last week but felt like it could have played much better, capitalized on some shaky Central defense in the top of the second. Tanner Dutton led off and struck out, but Eagle catcher Chandler Daughenbaugh let the ball get past him and failed to throw him Dutton at first. Dodd then smashed a line drive off Central pitcher Mason Wood, who recovered and threw him out, but not without Dutton advancing. With two out, Alex Creed hit a soft ground single to short, and the Central shortstop, instead of putting the ball in his pocket, rushed a wild throw to first that went by the bag, allowing Dutton to score.
In the meantime, Brown was dealing. He had perfect second and third innings, and eight straight Eagles has unsuccessful trips to the plate before Tyler Myers had a one-out ground-rule double in the fourth.
By that time, Mount Airy led 2-0. In the Bears’ third, Chris Chanclor doubled to left with one out. With two down and Taylor at the plate, Wood uncorked a pair of wild pitches, the second of which allowed Chanclor to score.
The Eagles’ fourth was one of the crucial points of the game. A man was already on base due to an error when Myers just missed a home run, hitting a deep fly to left that bounced over the fence. Brown quickly got ahead of Daughenbaugh, but the Central catcher hit a high foul popup in front of the Mount Airy dugout. Three Mount Airy players — third baseman Dodd, pitcher Brown and catcher Chanclor — all went after the ball, but Dodd made the play. Central, noticing that no one was covering home, sent Chandler Johnson racing home from third base.
Cawley admitted his team had made a mistake on the play, with the first baseman failing to cover home. However, Chanclor had noticed the danger and was headed back to home plate as Dodd made the catch. The latter saw what Johnson was doing, got the ball home to Chanclor, and Johnson was busted in the rundown.
“That was heads-up baseball. The third baseman, the catcher and the pitcher all came to the ball, and there was no one left to cover home,” said Cawley. “It just happened to work out for us that just as the ball was being caught, (Chanclor) broke back for home. Our first baseman should have been at home, and we’ve talked about that.”
In the Central fifth, Sean Schendel drew a leadoff walk, and then Jed Kidd worked one of his own, putting two on with nobody out. Cawley brought in Dodd to pitch. Ryan Gordon moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, but Tyler Whitaker, swinging at the first pitch, could only manage a sacrifice fly to deep center. Dodd got the next batter on a groundout to preserve a 2-1 Bear lead.
It became 3-1 in the very next half-inning. With one out, Cooper Nester swatted a single into the right-center gap, and Clay Taylor followed with a hot smash into left field. Schendel, who was pitching for the Eagles by this time, struck out the next batter, but then was hurt by his own defense when the Central shortstop let Dodd’s groundball go between his legs. Nester raced home and the Bears once again led by two.
Dodd had to face one more Eagle challenge in the last of the seventh. With one down, Kidd singled up the middle. Gordon let an inside pitch hit him, putting the tying run on base. Whitaker hit the ball to third, where the tag was made to keep the runners on first and second with two down. Ethan Danley singled to shallow center, but not deep enough for Kidd to risk trying to score. With the bases loaded, Roberts took a cut at a 1-1 pitch and hit it hard to Taylor, who made the stop and then took the easy throw to third in order to win the game.
Mount Airy will look to make it three straight wins and a sweep of Atkins when it hosts the Camels on Friday night. Surry Central will try to get back on track today in another non-conference game, at home against Wilkes Central.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.