Durham County

Northern seeks momentum from win over Riverside

Northern's Spencer Smith (11) follows through on a game-winning three-run home run in the Knight's 6-3 win over Riverside on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 at Northern.
Northern's Spencer Smith (11) follows through on a game-winning three-run home run in the Knight's 6-3 win over Riverside on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 at Northern.

Northern got a baseball win over Riverside on Tuesday that Knights' coach Greg Pruitt and his assistants think will be a springboard for the rest of the season.

Northern broke a three-game losing streak thanks to a pair of home runs by Spencer Smith, including a three-run game winner in the bottom of the seventh. For the Knights, it was a welcome victory at home, a place they haven't had a lot of games in the first half of the season.

"I can't tell you how much we needed that win," said Northern assistant coach Christian Tardieu. "We've been struggling, been hit with a lot of tough breaks. We needed that and we hope we can build on it."

Of their first 11 games, Northern has played seven of them on the road. The Knights have gone 1-6. But at home, Northern has enjoyed a little more success, going 3-1, including Tuesday's victory.

"Riverside got us at their place so it feels good to bounce back and win this one," Tardieu said. "We had lost three straight. We were struggling. We had some tough breaks go against us."

Tardieu said run production has been Northern's biggest challenge in the first half.

"We've been having trouble scoring runs all year," Tardieu said. "Maybe this will be the beginning of something to get us going. We've been hitting the ball hard but it's been right at people. They haven't been dropping in but they did against Riverside so maybe that will give us some confidence."

Against the Pirates, Northern scored a pair of runs in the first inning behind starting pitcher Keaton Bradley. Tardieu said that was a good start but they missed a chance to add more runs until late in game after Bradley exited.

"Keaton's been our workhorse all year and unfortunately we've haven't been giving him the run support," Tardieu said. "We got two for him early but we couldn't get more to get him the win. He pitched a heck of a game."

But if the Knights are going to finish on a strong not, they will have to road games. They've got five remaining plus three more that are part of next week's Hilltop Invitational.

"We've had a lot of road games," Tardieu said. "We've played some good team and I don't know if the guys realize that. It's made us better and I think they're beginning to gel a little and hopefully it will help us down the stretch."

Northern sits in the middle of the PAC-6 with a 2-3 mark. If they are to make a move, it will begin with their remaining games this week against Cardinal Gibbons and Hillside. Cardinal Gibbons, which has only one conference loss, sits behind Jordan only by percentage points. And Hillside has improved greatly, coming up with a 1-0 win over East Chapel Hill in extra innings.

"Gibbons is a big one because they are at the top of the conference," Tardieu said. "And Hillside has been playing good baseball this year. We've got two tough opponents coming up. Hopefully this win gives us some momentum and we can finish the week 3-0. We need it to get back up near the top."