State road finally catches Cavaliers

May. 21, 2014 @ 12:33 PM

Southern Lee's baseball team survived and advanced through two long road trips, at West Craven and at Northern Nash, in the first two rounds of the NCHSAA 3A State Tournament last week.

The Cavaliers hit the road as the underdog again in the round of 16 Tuesday evening, to C.B. Aycock.

Playing on the road in the third round for the second time in three years, the Cavs and their head coach, David Miller, pulled out an oddity to try to loosen up before the game.

By the end of seven innings, nothing about the pregame warm-ups mattered and the host Golden Falcons (18-9) had jumped on the Cavaliers (20-9) early and played a sound all-around game for a 6-1 win and a spot in the state quarterfinals.

The Cavalier change-up before the game was a "phantom infield," when a team takes its routine, pregame defensive practice without a ball. A coach swings a fungo. Players go through their motions.

Miller and the Cavs went with a phantom infield before their third round game in 2012. Miller said he didn't think either his squad or C.B. Aycock gained an advantage. The Cavaliers came out loose and ready to play, but the Golden Falcons came through with big hits when it mattered while the Cavaliers put runners on but left eight men stranded on the night.

Facing Aycock junior Bobby Hampton, the Cavs put two aboard in the top of the first with Ethan Helsman's two-out single followed by Cullen Boyette's walk. Hampton struck out Maxx Taylor to retire the side.

Senior Christian Wenger, who pitched a complete game in Southern Lee's 7-4 win at West Craven last Wednesday and who was willing and warming up had the Cavs needed him late in their 4-2 win at Northern Nash three days later, started on more normal rest.

C.B. Aycock got to the Cavs early though. In the first, Garrett Joyner led off with a double and wound up scoring on Noah West's sacrifice fly. A 4-6-3 double play, Cody Ellis to Turtle Windish to Taylor, held the hosts' lead at 1-0 through one.

With one down and one on in the Golden Falcon second, Hank Smitherman sent a drive over the left field fence making it 3-0 Aycock.

Wenger held the Golden Falcons through the third, fourth and fifth innings. A lone run in the fifth, now versus reliever Timothy Naughton, was as close as the Cavs got to rallying. Ellis walked with one out, then moved around thanks to three wild pitches making it 3-1 Golden Falcons.

C.B. Aycock scored three runs in the sixth, with Smitherman picking up two more RBI on a single.

West relieved Naughton starting the Cavalier seventh. Southern Lee loaded the bases as Noah Terhune singled, then after an out, Wenger walked and Windish reached on an error on a grounder. The second Golden Falcon double play of the game ended the game. The error in the seventh was the only one by the Golden Falcons. The three pitchers combined for a four-hitter, six walks and eight strikeouts.

With 20 wins, the Cavaliers matched their program record for wins in a season set last season.

The game was the last high school game for seniors Helsman, Wenger, Boyette and Chris McLean. The 2014 class was part of two Cape Fear Valley Conference championships or co-championships and 76 wins.