If North Surry’s seven-game winning streak didn’t make a statement, then the way the team bounced back from a tough loss certainly did.
Three days after suffering a tough loss in the late innings to West Stokes, the Greyhounds welcomed the Wildcats to The Kennel for a rematch, and evened the score with a 6-0 shutout victory.
North Surry (10-5, 7-3 Western Piedmont Athletic Conference) received a dominant pitching performance from Mason Gwyn, who blanked West Stokes for 6 2/3 innings before leaving due to the NCHSAA-mandated pitch count with one out to go. Brett Johnson was able to get the third out and preserve Gwyn’s shutout.
Gwyn, now 3-0 on the season as a pitcher, allowed just two hits, both in the fourth inning, and struck out 12 before head coach Tony Martin had to remove him from the game.
“That (pitch count) kind of snuck up on us,” said Martin. “Mason did a great job. He’s a team leader, and he hated to give it up, but we were fortunate to have someone to come in and step in there.”
Thanks to Gwyn, the Hounds didn’t need a lot of offense, but they got it anyway. The first four North Surry batters of the game all reached, and all of them scored. Kobe Slate led off the game with an infield single, and Ethan Oakley followed with a double on a 1-0 pitch from Stokes starter Tyler Little, putting two runners into scoring position. Things quickly went from bad to worse if you were a Wildcat fan, as Mack Cooke smashed a pitch over the fence for a 3-0 Hound lead. Nick Badgett followed that up with a single and later came around to score himself, thanks to a stolen base and an error by the visitors.
The scorebook wasn’t looking pretty for the Wildcats. After striking out the last two batters of the first inning, Gwyn struck out the side in the second and fanned the first two batters of the top of the third. He was perfect through three innings with seven consecutive punch-outs at one point.
In the home half of the third, North got another run. Cooke led off with a walk, stole second base, then scored on a double by Badgett. The Hounds nearly got a lot more, as Tompkins, Calvin Johnson and Blaike Watts all reached to load the bases with only one out. The visitors managed to wiggle off the hook, but still trailed 5-0.
Little led off his team’s fourth inning with a single to center. With one out, Jacob Mabe singled, and then stole second base to put two runners in scoring position with only one down. If West Stokes was ever going to get back into the game, this was it. Wildcat cleanup hitter Landon Wilkins worked the count to 2-2, then sliced a line drive into foul territory in the direction of the home dugout. Badgett, manning third base for the Hounds, ranged far to his right and managed to run the ball down for the second out. Gwyn got Jordan Smith on a popup and the threat was averted.
With two out in the bottom of the sixth inning, Slate pulled a ball high into the air to left field, getting it into a steady wind that was blowing from right to left throughout the evening. The ball carried over the fence and extended the Hounds’ lead to 6-0.
Down to its final three outs, West Stokes seemed to change its approach in the final inning. The Wildcats began to work deep into the count, looking for walks or for Gwyn to make poor pitches. Mabe led the inning off with a walk. Wilkins followed with a very long at-bat in which he looked at 13 pitches, fouling off several in a row, before Gwyn hit the inside black with a 3-2 fastball for a called strike three. Smith, in his turn, saw six pitches and drew a walk as well.
Gwyn was now at 102 pitches and would have to leave the game on the next completed at-bat after he passed 105. He caught Matthew Woody looking on a 1-2 pitch and left the game at 106 pitches.
Brett Johnson came on for the Hounds and walked Ryan Pegram to load the bases, but then got Daniel Kimel on a flyout to end the game.
North Surry has now won eight of nine games by a composite score of 72-10, with the 2-1 setback to West Stokes on Tuesday the only loss since March 16.
“We feel good about ourselves,” said Martin. “We hate we lost one Tuesday, but we feel good about where we are, and we just need to keep on getting better.”
The Hounds racked up 11 hits, including three from Slate, two each from Badgett and Calvin Johnson, and one from Watts, Tompkins, Oakley and Cooke. North played error-free ball and Gwyn threw a first-pitch strike to 17 of the 24 batters he faced.
North Surry will travel to Ashe County on Monday night.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.