Crusader nine beats Knights 8-4
Grace Christian made it three straight wins on the baseball diamond Thursday afternoon, notching runs in five of six frames in an 8-4 win versus Hickory Christian (6-2).
The Crusaders improved to a 7-5 mark. Micah Welborn threw a fine complete game, holding the Knights to five hits and keeping them quiet over the last four innings. The Crusader batting order made things happen in the top, middle and bottom of the lineup.
Grace Christian head coach Jeff Ayers is still looking for his squad to play a solid, clean game with a stretch of Carolina Christian Conference games coming up, starting Saturday morning with the Crusaders hosting Wayne Christian at 10 a.m.
One Crusader misplay, actually a play with three errors on the play, accounted for three Knight runs, the Knights briefly taking the lead in the third inning, and Ayers bringing up the unearned runs following the Crusader win.
Welborn stranded two Knight runners in the first, then Grace Christian took the lead with its first at-bats. Braxton Toro, a new center fielder and second-place hitter for Grace Christian, singled, stole second and wound up scoring on a wild pitch.
The Crusaders struck for two more runs in the second. With two outs and runners on first and second, Caleb Welborn ripped a shot down the left field line, all the way to the corner, scoring Iden Swartzentruber and Jonathan Husk on a triple.
The Knight third inning included four Crusader errors, with the three-error play which could've been an inning-ending double play, but instead had two runners score and the batter race all the way around making it 4-3 Knights.
Grace Christian's offense kept producing though. Aaron Ayers and Nathan Holt singled setting up the Crusader third and Shane Farnsworth drove both in with a single, putting the Crusaders ahead 5-4.
Aaron Ayers, normally the RBI guy in the Crusader order, was the rally starter again in the fifth. His leadoff single and stolen base led to Micah Welborn driving him in with an RBI double.
The Crusaders added two more runs in the sixth, this time thanks to a Knight error with two outs and Husk and Caleb Welborn scored.
Micah Welborn retired 14 of the last 16 Knights he faced; from getting the last two outs of the Knight third inning on. He finished with four strikeouts and one walk.
The Crusader defense came through twice while it was a tight game. In the fifth, Hickory Christian got the tying runner to second with one out. Caleb Welborn fielded two grounders to shortstop and made the plays at first to keep it a 5-4 game.
In the sixth, the Knights got a one-out single, then after a strikeout, a liner into short center looked like another hit until Toro made a sliding grab to end the inning.
The Crusaders are 3-0 in the CCC going into Saturday's game with Wayne Christian.
Hickory Christian 4, Grace Christian 2
In a match-up of the top two squads in the current NCISAA 1A state poll, No. 2 Hickory Christian scored three goals in four minutes early in the second half for an impressive victory over No. 1 Grace Christian (9-1, 4-0 CCC).
The Lady Crusaders knocked off Statesville Christian, the previous No. 1-ranked squad, 4-1 in Sanford on Monday. The holder atop the state poll will presumably change again this coming week.
The Lady Knights had the best chances for a goal in the first 40 minutes. In the 31st minute, Lady Crusader keeper Victoria Druther made back-to-back saves, one on a long, skipping drive from about 20 yards away, then had quick reflexes to punch wide, from her knees, a shorter, sharper shot from the rebound.
Grace Christian seemed to gain more of the possession and confidence in the first few minutes after halftime before the flurry of Lady Knight goals changed the match for good. The three goals made it 3-0 in the 52nd minute.
Madison Bolen converted a penalty kick in the 57th minute for a 3-1 score. Hickory Christian got the goal back in the 60th minute.
With less than two minutes remaining, Charity Taylor scored, drilling a shot into the top of the net after Torie Boyte's shot on goal created a rebound in the box.
Hickory Christian outshot the Lady Crusaders 21-10 in overall shots and 14-3 in shots on goal. Druther made 10 saves for the Lady Crusaders.
Grace Christian will resume CCC play with a home match versus Neuse Christian at 4 p.m. Tuesday.