First Flight escapes Bertie

Published 9:23 am Tuesday, April 28, 2009

WINDSOR – Heartbreak.

Bertie High School’s baseball team comeback against First Flight fell short Friday night as the Falcons fell to the Nighthawks, 6-5.

The loss left Bertie still winless in Northeastern Coastal Conference 2-A/3-A baseball play.

“I’m proud of the way the guys played,” said veteran coach Randy Whitaker. “We fought all night long because First Flight had a chance to put us away, but we got out of it thanks to some fine defensive plays.”

Nighthawks coach Ray Scott echoed that sentiment with a compliment to his opponents.

“Bertie’s last two or three ball games have been one-or-two run games,” he said, “so if you keep them in a close ball game they’re going to be right there with you.”

Cody White went 3-for-4 at the plate for the Falcons and drove in a run. Bryce Cullipher was 2-for-4, while Simon Hoggard, Zeek Williams, and Kyle Hughes also drove in runs.

Williams was also the hard-luck loser on the mound as he gave up six runs on nine hits while striking out five. Steve Saunders got the win for First Flight surrendering five runs on nine hits with three strikeouts.

Bertie had their first scoring opportunity in the bottom of the second inning when Joseph Eure got a base hit and one out later moved to second on White single. However, First Flight got a strikeout and a ground out to end the threat.

The scoring began in the third inning when First Flight got a one-out walk and back-to-back doubles produced the first two runs for the visitors. The next Nighthawk batter lifter a fly ball deep to right that was misplayed by the Bertie fielder and another run scored on the error to give First Flight a 3-0 lead after two-and-a half innings.

Bertie stuck back in the bottom of the third when Dakota Young struck out, but ran to first when the catcher dropped the ball. He moved to second base on a wild pitch and then came home with the Falcons’ first run on Hughes’ base hit to cut the deficit to 3-1.

Cullipher opened the fourth inning for the Falcons with a single to center, but was thrown out on a steal attempt. The next batter, White, reached on a error then moved to third on back-to-back base-on-balls before scoring on Williams’ deep sacrifice fly to center field. Bertie trailed, 3-2, after four innings.

The Nighthawks got two more runs in the fifth inning when J.J. Allen slammed his fifth homerun of the season and added another run on a double and a triple with two outs to make it 5-2. The Nighthawks’ leading hitter, George Mazza, then delivered a run in the top of the sixth to stake First Flight to a three-run lead.

The Falcons got one run back in the bottom of the fifth to make it 6-3.

Bertie then got two runs in the bottom of the sixth as Dylan White got a base hit and moved to third on back-to-back base hits. The last safety, by Hoggard, scored White to make it 6-4 and put runners on the corners. But on the double-steal, Hoggard was thrown out, while Zeek Williams crossed the plate to trim the lead to just a single run at 6-5.

The drama and the game came down to the bottom of the seventh after First Flight was retired in order. Cody White beat out an infield base hit and pinch-hitter Matthew Hoggard bunted him to second with a sacrifice. A wild pitch from relief pitcher Sam Carlson had the tying run in scoring position with just one out.

Williams drew a walk to put the go-ahead run aboard, but the Falcons could not capitalize further and First Flight escaped with their 12th win of the season and sixth in conference play.

“We had a chance to do something,” said the disappointed Whitaker, “but they got us in the seventh. Still, I’m proud of my team.”