Leopards overpower Spartans

By Daron Barefoot - Sports Writer

Union pitcher Jordan Blackburn pitches during the second inning of their loss at Lakewood on Tuesday night.

The Lakewood Leopards hosted Union in non-conference baseball action on Tuesday evening. After falling behind early, Lakewood used strong hitting and capitalized on Union errors to capture an impressive 18-5 win.

In the top half of the first inning, Union was able to get on the board, taking an early 2-0 lead following a couple of Leopard errors. Warren Gay and Dawson Thornton each scored for the Spartans in the opening inning.

In the bottom of the same inning, Lakewood was able to cut that deficit in half. With one out, Lakewood batter Zach Tanner reached base with a single. A passed ball allowed Tanner to advance to second, then, two pitches later, a wild pitch gave Tanner an opportunity to take third. The throw to third was errant and Tanner raced in to score. Union went on to retire the next two batters, ending the first inning with a 2-1 lead.

In the top of the second inning, the Spartans had an opportunity to extend its lead. With two outs, Warren Gay reached on an infield base hit, then stole second. He later advanced to third on a wild pitch.

Leopard pitcher Joshua Carter then struck out the next Spartan batter to end the threat. Union’s lead remained 2-1.

The second inning proved to be the turning point in the game, as the Leopards would get three runs to take a 4-2 lead. Chandler Honeycutt started the inning by drawing a walk then advanced to second following a sacrifice bunt by Devin Rosenberger. Jeremy Sessoms then stepped up to the plate and drove a base hit to center field, advancing Honeycutt to third. Lakewood loaded the bases after Union dropped a pop fly to left field by Joshua Howard. A base hit to center field by Toby Spell would score Honeycutt, tying the game at 2-2. Another base hit by Chandler Ray would drive in two more runs for Lakewood, but in the same play, Union was able tag another runner out at third base to end the spurt.

The Leopard lead grew to 5-2 in the bottom of the third inning. Chandler Honeycutt hit a line drive down the third baseline to score Pate Holland, who was pinch-running for Spencer Ray. Lakewood would later load the bases again, but was unable to do further damage as a strike out ended the threat.

Union added one run in the top of the fourth behind a single and two stolen bases by Matthew Ballance. Spartan batter Nicholas Westbrook hit into a ground out at first base but was able to score Ballance in the process, cutting Lakewood’s lead to 5-3.

That was as close as Union would get, as things quickly went south in the bottom of the fourth inning. Lakewood added 13 runs following a combination of base hits and Union errors, and was able to bat around without sustaining a single out. In the chaos of the rally, the Spartans turned to new pitchers Warren Gay and Dawson Thornton, but nothing was going their way.

The inning mercifully ended, but the damage had been done, as the Leopards were now in firm control, boasting an 18-3 lead. Union added two runs in the top of the fifth inning, plating Gay and Thornton, to bring the final score to 18-5.

After the victory, Leopard head coach Jay Faircloth commented, “We started off sluggish but we came in and did exactly what we’ve done all season so far, working and swinging the bat. We hit the ball tonight.”

Faircloth went on to praise the defense as well. “Defensively, we settled down. Josh threw really well from the mound tonight. I’m proud of everyone,” he said.

Spartan head coach Josh Rackley praised their opponent following the loss.

“Pitching was good tonight, but credit goes to Lakewood, they were able to get a bunch of base hits,” he said. “We had a lot of balls hit right to us but were just unable to make the routine plays. We hit the ball well tonight, well enough to be in this game, but we had one bad inning. Unfortunately that’s baseball.”

Lakewood returns to action on Thursday when they travel to Spring Creek for their conference opener.

Union plays again next Tuesday, also a conference opener, hosting West Bladen.

Reach Daron Barefoot at dbarefoot86@gmail.com

By Daron Barefoot

Sports Writer

Union pitcher Jordan Blackburn pitches during the second inning of their loss at Lakewood on Tuesday night.
http://www.clintonnc.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/web1_DSC_0009.jpgUnion pitcher Jordan Blackburn pitches during the second inning of their loss at Lakewood on Tuesday night.

Reach Daron Barefoot at dbarefoot86@gmail.com

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