Yellow Jackets run into trouble vs. Apex
Apex kept pushing runs across, earned or not, while Lee County ran itself out of potential threats Thursday night and the result was the visiting Cougars earning a season split with Lee County thanks to a 9-5 victory.
Starting by scoring three runs in a two-out rally in the top of the first, the Cougars (4-6, 2-6) put something on the board in five innings against three Yellow Jacket pitchers.
Hampton Thomas hit a two-run homer in the Jacket first to get Lee County back within a run. The Jackets then closed a 6-2 Apex lead with two runs in the fifth.
The Jackets never turned the game in their favor, though, as they lost runners and give the visitors outs on a number of odd plays around the base paths.
Apex took the lead after two walks kept the first inning going against Thomas, the Jacket starting pitcher. Ben Highfill's double, a hard smash down the left field line, scored one run. Liam Serenscics followed with a drive to the warning track in left for a two-run double.
Anthony Johnson's double started Lee County's first, only for a pitcher to first to third double play, as Johnson tried racing into third after Apex pitcher Camby Abell gloved a chop and made the toss to first.
Alex Scott reached on a dropped third strike to keep the inning alive for Thomas, who launched a high fly carrying over the center field fence.
In the Jacket second, with one out and Patrick Bethea on second from a walk and stolen base, Cole Patterson's grounder to short resulted in a wild throw past first base. Trying to score from second, Bethea was thrown out at the plate.
Lee County's third ended with a coaching error. With one out and a runner on first, Pressley Hales hit a fly to center. Head coach and third-base coach Charlie Spivey thought there were two down and the confusion led to a double play.
The Jacket fourth ended with a single. Cole Patterson singled with two out, but rounding the base hard thinking about taking second, Patterson went down injured about 20 feet past first base. A few seconds later the Cougars got the ball back into the infield and tagged Patterson.
Thomas last four innings on the mound, leaving with Apex leading 6-2. Austin Scott held the Cougars in the fifth, leaving two Cougars stranded.
With two down in the Jacket fifth, Alex Scott's double, a shot off the center fielder's glove and down onto the track in right-center field, scored Johnson.
The Jackets took advantage of a wild play for another run. Nolan Groce popped up into the middle of the infield. Cougar confusion allowed the ball to drop but Groce was caught midway between first and second. Groce hustled in the rundown long enough for Scott to score before he was tagged, by Apex right fielder Esteban Valencia, for the third out.
Apex added a run, on three walks and no hits, in the sixth, then two more against Jacket reliever Brandon O'Quinn in the seventh, making it 9-4.
Matthew Pearce singled to open the Lee County seventh and he came in to score on a grounder by O'Quinn.
Abell went 5.0 innings and got the win for the Cougars. Serenscics went 2-for-3 with three RBI. Lane Olive, who came on as a substitute catcher in the fourth inning, wound up with two doubles, two runs and an RBI.
Johnson, in the Jacket leadoff spot, went 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and a run. Alex Scott scored two runs.
The Jackets (3-7, 3-5) get a break from Tri-Nine opponents for their Spring Break, heading to play in the Asheboro Copperheads Easter Tournament Monday-Wednesday. Lee County will face Eastern Randolph on the first evening of the tourney at 5:30 p.m.