Baker's arm, Knights' bats provide rare win over ECH
Storms forecast for the Triangle never arrived at East Chapel Hill High School Tuesday afternoon and early evening, but Northern made it thunder with 11 hits in a 9-1 win over the Wildcats.
Most of Northern’s noise came in the top of the second as Griffin Baker was reaching first base when ECH’s Bennett Byerley was slow gathering a throw to the bag. Two Knights scored in the process.
Northern’s Mack Fenlon followed Griffin at the plate and sent a Sean Moore pitch over the left-field fence.
The Knights were up 4-1 and kept attacking, eventually delivering something of a milestone for Northern coach Greg Pruitt.
“I’ve been at Northern four years, and this is the first time I’ve beaten East Chapel Hill,” Pruitt said. “In eight games, I got one.”
What a relief, Pruitt said.
“Absolutely, it’s a big monkey off my back!” Pruitt said.
Pruitt said he’s had better teams than ECH, but the Wildcats traditionally have played solid ball with pitchers throwing strikes and fielders making routine plays.
The Wildcats weren’t so sharp this time.
“We’ve had their number, but they sure put it on us (Tuesday),” ECH coach Phil Woodell said. “We didn’t have anything for them.
“We’ve hit a rough spot here, and we’ve got to play our way out of it.”
Pruitt didn’t have much to complain about, although he had an issue in the fifth inning when Luke Fenlon was called out for making an illegal slide into second base, taking out a fielder, resulting in a double play.
“(The umpire said) that if there’s any contact with the fielder and you slide further than the bag, that’s an illegal slide,” Pruitt said. “I thought the rule stated you had to slide straight to the bag in high school.”
The slide that Northern’s Pete Vurnakes performed in right field in the bottom of the sixth was a beauty, his catch in foul territory sending Connor Stough back to the ECH dugout.
Moore settled in the batter’s box for ECH and stroked another one toward right field. Vurnakes galloped toward the fence, but the ball sailed out of the park.
“Come on, Pete!” yelled Northern’s fans, deadpanning Vurnakes’ prior athleticism.
Baker pitched a 6-1/3 strong innings, and closer Ryan Williamson brought his submarine style to the mound to finish the deal.
Northern, a young team, is in second place in the PAC-6. It’s a down year for the league, Pruitt said.
“We’ve taken our lumps this year, but I’ve left the freshmen in there to gain experience, knowing that we’re going to be the team to beat down the road,” Pruitt said.
NOTES — Second place Northern (5-2) moved 1-1/2 games up on third-place East (4-4) in the PAC-6 4-A standings.
Northern 9, East Chapel Hill 1
Northern 040 120 2 — 9 11 1
E. Chapel Hill 100 000 0 — 1 5 4
BATTERIES — Northern, Griffin Baker (W, 3-4) 6 1/3, 4K, Ryan Williamson (7th, 1K) and Spencer Smith. ECH, Sean Moore (L, 4-3) 5 2/3, 3K, John Bauman (5th), Tommy Devetski (6th, 1K) and Josh Baldwin.
LEADING HITTERS —Northern, Mack Fenlon 1-4 (HR, 2 RBI), A.J. Bumpass 2-4 (2B), Baker 2-4 (RBI), Jacob Bierman 2-4 (2B, RBI). ECH, Bennett Byerley 1-4, Moore 2-3 (2B).
Records— Northern 7-11-1, 5-2 PAC-6 4-A; East Chapel Hill 12-7, 4-4 PAC-6.