Athens Drive holds on against Garner in baseball home opener
Posted March 1
Updated March 2
Raleigh, N.C. — Athens Drive rebounded after a lopsided loss to Apex Tuesday night by defeating Garner, 4-3, in the Jaguars’ home opener on Wednesday in Raleigh.
Junior Christian Small was the hero for Athens Drive, scoring the sending the game-winning run across the plate in the top of the sixth inning for the Jaguars to seal the victory.
The Jaguars snapped an eight-inning scoreless streak with a two-run second inning.
“We have to be aggressive – that’s our strength,” said Athens Drive manager Michael Ferrell. “If we go up and we are aggressive, we start off early, we don’t get in the hole – that’s where we start to shine. Tonight it proved that; the guys went out there and dropped a run in the second inning and we were rolling from there.”
Senior Cole Baker led the inning off with a single and stole second base on the next pitch. Athens Drive junior Jack Gorrell followed with a single of his own, advancing Baker to third base.
With senior Ben Ruth at the plate and runners at the corners, Gorrell stole second base. The Garner second baseman bobbled the throw from the Trojans’ catcher, and Baker scored from third to give the Jaguars a 1-0 lead.
Ruth reached first on a throwing error later in his at-bat and Gorrell scored to extend the Jaguars’ early advantage to a two-run game.
Garner threatened in the top of the third with runners on the corners, but freshman pitcher Zach Hurand escaped unscathed with a strikeout on full count to end the inning
Senior Sam Enders started the Jaguars off with a leadoff double in the bottom of the third. Athens Drive’s next batter – sophomore Adam Stuart – sent Enders home with an RBI single to push the Jaguars’ lead to 3-0.
The Trojans scratched across its first run in the top of the fourth inning with back-to-back doubles.
Senior Wellington Guzman reached second base on a blooper into right field and fellow senior Noah Giroux followed with an RBI double to cut the Athens Drive lead to 3-1.
Besides the fourth-inning run, it was smooth sailing for Athens Drive freshman hurler until the sixth inning.
Hurand tossed seven-straight balls to start the inning, walking the first batter and nearly the next. After working back to a full count with the second batter, Hurand got the Trojan batter to hit into a 4-6-3 double play.
But with two down, the Trojans weren’t nearly done.
Guzman reached tallied his second single of the contest following the double play, and senior Noah Gallogly ripped a ball over the right field wall to knot the ballgame at 3-3.
Ferrell visited the mount after Guzman’s single but elected to keep Hurand in the ballgame to face Gallogly.
But after the two-run slam, Ferrell made the call to the bullpen, replacing Hurand with senior reliever Will Snipes.
“As a coach, you have to realize when your guy is getting tired,” Ferrell said. “You could start to see his ball was elevating a little bit. That was a coaching mistake, and I told him that. I told him there was nothing he needed to worry about.”
Hurand allowed seven hits, two earned runs, two walks and struck out three batters on 78 pitches Tuesday afternoon.
“The kid is 14-years-old,” Ferrell said. “He came out and threw his first varsity game, and I absolutely couldn’t ask anything more from him.”
Despite the Trojans’ momentum swing after the home run, Athens Drive had an answer in the latter half of the inning.
Athens Drive led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a single from Baker, who eventually scored the game-winning run from first base after Small doubled on a ball that was just fair down the left-field line.
“I just got lucky, because I fouled the first two off,” Small said. “I happened to be in the right spot and I just hit it.”
Baker finished Wednesday 3-for-3 with two runs. Stuart and Small combined 2-for-6 with two RBI in the win.
Gallogly and Guzman led Garner Wednesday afternoon with two hits apiece.
Snipes (1-0) tossed only 15 pitches but earned the win after replacing Hurand in the fifth inning.
Garner starting pitcher Garrett Caparote (0-1) went the entire way for the Trojans, giving eight hits, four runs – three earned – and striking out five batters.
Athens Drive (1-1) will return to action Friday against Fuquay-Varina at 3 p.m. in Raleigh, and Garner (0-1) is slated to host Broughton on Friday at 4 p.m.