When Northside right fielder Bennett Wilson fielded a single with two on and two out in the bottom of the seventh inning of a one-run game, he had only one thing on his mind.
“I knew there was a guy in scoring position, and I knew I had to throw him out,” Wilson said. “We work on it constantly in practice: Making good long-hop throws.”
The practice paid off as the throw reached home plate in time to tag out Bainbridge second baseman Ryals Smith for the final out of a 2-1 region win on Friday at home.
The win kept Northside (4-3, 3-0) perfect in region play so far this season.
“They’re huge wins,” Northside coach David Smart said of early-season region victories. “Especially when you’re at home. You feel like you have to win those.”
And it doesn’t matter how you get that win, the coach said, which was a good thing considering the Patriots mustered only three hits in the entire game.
Northside recorded singles in the first, third and fourth innings, but nothing else the entire game. Strangely enough, its two runs came in none of those three innings.
The Patriots scored first in the second to take a small 1-0 lead. Michael Rossi led off the inning with a walk and Josh Walker sacrificed him to second with a bunt. Another walk and a hit batter loaded the bases with one out. Rob Shayne grounded into a fielder’s choice to drive in the run.
In the bottom of the sixth with the score tied at one, Rossi again started the rally for the Patriots, this time reaching on an error by the Bainbridge shortstop. Walker bunted again, but the Bearcats tried to throw out the lead runner at second. Rossi slid in safely, however, and both runners were on with nobody out. Cameron Hopkins bunted to put runners at second and third with one out and Wilson drove in the go-ahead run with a groundout.
A relieved Smart said he’d take the win and noted the team’s ability to manufacture a couple of runs even when the hits weren’t falling.
“We bunted the ball well, and that was a big factor,” he said. “Our whole offensive philosophy is to get a guy to third with less than two outs, and we executed when we needed to.”
With that said, the coach made it clear that wins like this are hard to come by.
“We’re very fortunate,” he said. “You don’t win many games like that. We’re not swinging real well, but we came through when we needed to and we were really good defensively.”
The Patriots didn’t commit an error on Friday and pitcher Chase Slocumb was impressive, scattering nine hits over seven innings of work in a complete-game victory.
He worked out of early trouble in the first inning, when Bainbridge’s first two hitters singled to start the game. The lead-off man singled to start the second inning and a double came around to score the Bearcats’ only run in the fourth.
They didn’t get another chance until the final batter of the game singled to right, but Wilson made sure the tying run didn’t cross the plate. Slocumb did all that without the benefit of a strikeout the entire game.
He said it was his changeup and curveball that were helping to get players to hit the ball into the ground all game.
“Those pitches felt good, and I didn’t feel any pressure out there,” he said. “I have a lot of faith in my teammates behind me. Makes you want to go out there and pitch again.”
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.
Friday at Northside
Bainbridge 000 100 0—1 9 1
Northside 010 001 X—2 3 0
WP—Chase Slocumb. LP—Tate Lambert. Hitting leaders—Bainbridge, Blake Voyles 1-2, 2B, R, Ben Day 1-3, RBI; Northside, Bennett Wilson 1-2, RBI, Handley Boyd 2-3. Records—Northside, 4-3, 3-0. Next—Northside, 3 p.m. Saturday vs. Smiths Station/Central (DH) at Golden Park.