Indians record first win of season, finish sixth at King’s Fork

Published 10:47 am Saturday, April 18, 2015

Playing in a tournament with schools much larger than that of its own, the Southampton baseball team finished the King’s Fork Tournament with respectable 1-2 record, good for sixth place out of eight teams.

The Indians were overmatched in the first game of the tournament, according to manager Wes Griffith, a 10-0 loss to Oscar Smith of Chesapeake. The Tigers took an early lead, scoring one run in each of the first three innings of the contest, to chase sophomore pitcher Wesley Pierce from the game. It was his first loss of the young season.

“Pierce threw the ball well, but the defense could not make enough plays to keep him in the game,” Griffith said.

The Indians managed only two hits off of their opponents; sophomore Nash Warren and senior Brian Craft each recorded a single.

Griffith hoped that day off in between rounds of the Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday tournament would help the Indians to refocus before taking on the host, King’s Fork. The Bulldogs put three quick runs on the board against Southampton senior Hunter Peck in the top of the first, though, and the Indians would feel the pressure.

They responded in the bottom of the inning with two quick runs of their own, when Warren led off the inning with a double. A sacrifice bunt moved Warren to third, and a sacrifice fly by Peck brought the speedster home. A subsequent walk from junior James Williams and double from Pierce helped the Indians to within one.

Down two runs in the bottom of the third, the Indians offense came alive, Griffith said. Scoring seven runs on two hits, two walks and two errors, Southampton would take a 9-4 lead. Junior Clay Mein sparked the rally with sharp single down the left field line to score Pierce and courtesy runner Robert Hawkins. Warren then singled past the shortstop, which scored junior Braxton Harrup and senior Brandon Raiford to give the Indians the advantage.

The Red and White tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the sixth with a two-run double from Raiford, scoring Peck and senior Morgan Hall, to record the 11-4 win — the first of the season.

In the finale, the fifth-place consolation game, Southampton lost a heartbreaker to Woodrow Wilson of Portsmouth. The Indians were leading 5-2 through four innings, as Warren held the Presidents in check at the plate. Southampton added two more in support of Warren on back-to-back RBI singles from Pierce and Hall. He was lifted in the fifth for sophomore reliever Brendan Simms, however, who promptly gave up four runs in the sixth and seventh inning to allow Woodrow Wilson to tie the game in the final at-bats.

With the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the seventh, Pierce was able to escape a jam by inducing a ground ball double play and recording a strikout.

“We executed small ball perfectly,” Griffith said.

The momentum lead to Southampton taking the lead in extra innings, as Simms dropped down the perfect suicide squeeze to score Harrup from third. That lead didn’t hold long, though, as the Presidents evened the contest on an infield error, and scored the winning run on a wild pitch that hit the plate and bounced to the backstop.

“There was nothing either pitcher or catcher could have done with that pitch,” Griffith said. “Wesley had a pitch to waste and the called pitch from the dugout was a curveball in the dirt to try to get the batter to chase it in the dirt.

“It just happened to hit the plate and bounce over Morgan who blocked well all day. That is just how the ball rolls some days,” he continued. “We played hard and will keep working.”

The team was back in action just three days later, traveling to Lawrenceville on Tuesday to play Brunswick. Senior Jesse Griggs struck out seven batters in 6 1/3 innings on the mound to lead the Indians to a 9-4 win over the Bulldogs.

“He battled all day to keep their bats at bay,” Griffith said.

The Indians scored the first runs of the game in the third inning, when Williams opened the frame with a base knock down the third-base line; Pierce followed that up with a seeing eye single; and Hall singled to the outfield. With the bases loaded, Harrup walked in a run and Raiford hit a sacrifice fly to give the Indians a two run cushion.

Southampton added another in the top of the fourth when Simms reached on an error by the Brunswick shortstop and scored on a double by Warren.

Brunswick climbed back into the game in the bottom of the fifth, scoring three runs on three-consecutive singles and a double. But the Indians subsequently put the game away, scoring four runs in the top of the sixth. Warren was hit by a pitch, and Williams and Pierce hit back-to-back singles to load the bases. Another walk pushed a run across, and two more RBI singles from Raiford and Simms pushed the lead to four.

Pierce added a solo home run in the top of the seventh to give Southampton the final 9-4 advantage.

The Indians returned to the diamond on Thursday evening in South Hill against Park View, but came up on the short end of a pitching battle. Peck pitched three scoreless innings to start the game, helped his own cause when with a base knock and subsequent run in the top of the fourth. The Dragons answered in the bottom of the frame, as an RBI single dropped in front of the tracking centerfielder.

Peck would be removed due to a high pitch count in favor of Warren, who shut down the home team in the fifth. In the sixth, though, the Dragons put runners on first and second. A double steal resulted in a rundown between first and second, allowing the lead runner to score unnoticed. This proved to be the winning run, as Park View took the game, 2-1.

The Indians (2-5, 1-3 in the TriRivers District) will return to Courtland for two-consecutive home games this coming week, hosting Sussex on Tuesday and Franklin on Thursday. First pitch of both contests are scheduled for 4:30 p.m.