Pinecrest tops Union Pines 4-1
April 28, 2011Union Pines High School
By F.W. Manning II
Pinecrest defeated Union Pines 4-1 in front of a massive crowd at Viking Field Monday in Cameron.
After the nonconference intra-county rivalry baseball showdown was over, Pinecrest head coach Jeff Hewitt’s first comment centered on the magnitude of the event itself.
“It was truly electric out here tonight,” said Hewitt. “Coming over here with the amount of fans that were on the banks and in the stands, this was a great atmosphere to play in.”
Viking head coach Chad Hill said the crowd and atmosphere were unlike anything he had seen at Union Pines.
“This was like a fourth round playoff match-up,” said Hill. “It was electric out here and during pregame warm-ups you could tell how excited both teams were to be a part of it. It also turned out to be a great baseball game between two quality teams so the fans definite got their money’s worth.”
Patriot ace Dillon Maples dazzled, striking out 17 batters in a dominant display. The senior hurler improved to 7-0 on the season allowing one run on two hits, three walks, and an HP to notch the complete game victory.
“Even though we say coming into these type rivalry match-ups that we are going approach it like any other game, it’s almost impossible not to have that extra motivation,” Maples said. “Union Pines is a good team, just like us. So when two teams come together and play each other there is going to be a lot of people out here just like there was tonight.”
Union Pines took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Justin Allred reached with a single and later scored on a wild pitch.
Maples issued a one-out walk after Allred’s hit and then tossed two wild pitches to allow the Viking run. From there he slowed his working pace a tad from the hill and fanned two batters to retire the side.
After getting out of the first-inning jam, Maples struck out five of the next six batters he faced to make easy work of the Vikings in the second and third frames.
His go-to pitch was a sweeping curveball that was breaking late, sharp, and hard laterally and down over the zone. On the night, Maples used the pitch to tally 11 of his 17 strikeouts and notched Ks on seven of his last eight recorded outs.
The Patriot offense was shut down through the first three innings by Viking starting pitcher Carson Kelly.
Pinecrest then broke through to score twice in the top of the fourth frame and take a 2-1 lead. Evan Guy led off the inning with a double to center for Pinecrest’s first hit of the contest. The next four Pats all reached base on free passes.
Maples and Bailey Rush both drew walks to load the bases. Then Joey Vecchione and Pat Moore each picked up RBIs when they were plunked by pitches.
Rush gave Pinecrest a 4-1 lead when he poked a two-run double to right field in the top half of the fifth inning that scored Maples and Guy. The double was the second of three hits for Pinecrest in the tilt, all of which were two-baggers — Vecchione had the third Pat double in the top of the seventh.
However, the Patriots did receive 12 free passes on the night, including seven walks and five HBPs.
Hewitt thought at times his players guessed at the plate and went out of the zone, but felt his team did a good job of getting some runs on the board when they needed to.
“Sometimes for the opposing team it can be deflating when they see a couple of runs get across and know they have to face Dillon for four or five innings,” he said. “We don’t make any bones about it either — we know we are blessed to have a talent like Dillon Maples. As a head coach, you hope to see a guy like that once or twice in your career, so again we are blessed to have Dillon.”
In the last half of the seventh, Union Pines mounted a two-out threat. Sophomore Noble Davis started things with a backside single to left field. Next, junior Ryan Gilmore drew a walk to bring the tying run to the plate. Maples then promptly recorded a three-pitch strikeout to retire the side and end the game.
Hewitt felt the cross-county contest was a great game played by both teams.
“Union Pines was solid and made every play they needed to make,” he said. “I can see how this team can get it done in their conference and against everybody else this season.
“Overall, we are happy to get out of here with a win. It was our 20th of the season, which is a goal we set every season. It is the second time it has happened in the 12 years I have been at Pinecrest, so we are excited.”
Pinecrest improved to 20-2 with the win, while Union Pines dropped to 17-5.
Hill told his team there was no need for them to be down after the game.
“I was proud of the approaches we took at the plate tonight,” said Hill. “We looked like we had an idea, but at the same time we are definitely not hesitant to tip our hat to a great player who threw a great game.
“We battled and made defensive plays when we needed to. Then in the seventh (inning), we had a chance — anytime you bring the tying run to the plate that is all you can ask for as a coach.”
Union Pines now turns its full focus to a Friday night Cape Fear Valley Conference clash for first place in the league standings with Southern Lee in Sanford. Union Pines is one game in front with a first-place record of 9-1 while Southern Lee is 8-2 (and 13-8 overall).
“I think this game was great preparation for Friday night against Southern Lee,” said Hill. “That is what we have been gearing for all year, a chance to win a conference championship, so this was a great atmosphere to get us ready for that battle in Sanford.”
The 2011 4A Southeastern Conference champion Patriots were scheduled to host Southern Lee Tuesday and close out the regular season with 7 p.m. SEC league game Friday at Hoke.
Contact F.W. Manning II at firstname.lastname@example.org.