Bears break Knights’ streak

Published 8:49 am Tuesday, April 1, 2014

AHOSKIE – J.J. Gatling’s grand-slam home run highlighted a six-run fourth inning as Hertford County held on to beat Currituck County, 10-9, here Friday night and shake-up the standings in the Northeastern Coastal Conference baseball race.

The Knights (8-1, 3-1, NEC), who had begun the season 8-0, suffered their first loss of the season and first in conference play.  Hertford County raised its record to 7-1 and 2-1 in league action.

The Bears opened the scoring with two runs in the bottom of the second inning. Ackerman Grace was hit by a pitch.  He later stole second base and scored on a wild throw on that same play by catcher Evan Voliva that went all the way into centerfield.  Tyler Pope then drew a base-on-balls; Dylan Waterfield followed and singled to center.  Eric Ortiz was next and his hit up the middle loaded the bases. Pope then scored on a wild pitch and the Bears led 2-0 after two innings.

Currituck came right back and tied the contest in the top of the third as they picked up a pair of runs: an unearned run on a wild pitch and another when Colton Leonard picked up an RBI on a groundout.  The game remained tied at 2-2 after three complete.

Hertford County scored six runs in the bottom of the fourth.  Grace singled to left and went to second on a wild pitch.  He advanced to third on Pope’s bunt single.  Waterfield followed and was hit by a pitch to load the bases.  Gatling then cleared the bases on a two-one count with a moon-shot over the left field fence that brought in four runs.

In the same inning, Ortiz followed with a walk, Brandon Terry reached on a fielder’s choice that eliminated Ortiz but Terry advanced to second on an error on the same play. Pinch-runner Chris Adams came in to run for Terry and scored on a Bryan Merritt single to left field.  Ryan Weaver was next and reached first on an error as Merritt was held at third.  Austin Hurdle then hit a deep fly-ball to right allowing Merritt to score and the Bears had broken the game open, taking an 8-2 lead after four.

Currituck scored three runs in the top of the fifth.  Leonard picked up an RBI single and two more runs came in on an error for an 8-5 Hertford County lead after four-and-a-half innings.

The Bears added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth.  Pope singled to left and Gatling reached on an error.  Both runners moved into scoring position later on a wild pitch.  Pope then scored on an Ortiz squeeze bunt single and Gatling scored on a Terry RBI fielder’s choice.  Hertford County had doubled up the Knights with a score of 10-5 after five.

The Knights didn’t go down without a fight. After a scoreless sixth by both teams, Currituck scored four runs in the top of the seventh.  Bryce Cartwright got the first run in on a bases-loaded walk.  Two more runs scored on an error and Tyler Schuster had an RBI infield single.  Currituck got runners on first and second with Voliva coming to the plate with two out and a chance to tie or take the lead.  Instead, the Knights’ number-three batter harmlessly flied out to left field to end the game.

The Bears had ten hits.  Ortiz and Merritt each had two hits and a RBI apiece. Pope had two hits while Gatling drove in four runs.  Grace and Waterfield had one hit each and Terry and Hurdle had a hit and a run-batted-in each.

Grace got the win going four and two-third innings allowing five runs on three hits and he had seven strikeouts. Merritt pitched the final two and a-third innings allowing four runs on a hit with one strikeout.

Ben Rogers, who gave up the grand-slam, took the loss for Currituck.

“This was a BIG conference win for us,” said a smiling Hertford County coach Chris Towell.  “We made them make plays and we took advantage of their mistakes.  We still have to do a better job, though, on defense, but Ackerman and Bryan both pitched well and I couldn’t be prouder of this team.”

Hertford County ties First Flight for second in the conference at 2-1 while Currituck falls into a tie for first with Edenton J.A. Holmes at 3-1.

The Bears play Bertie today (Tuesday) in Windsor in a game with a 7 p.m. start.