Bears win Easter Tournament

Published 5:57 pm Sunday, April 27, 2014

WINDSOR – Hertford County High held off a furious Bertie High rally in the seventh inning here Tuesday night and held on to beat the Falcons in the championship game of the Bertie Easter Tournament.

Hertford County got on the board first with one run in the bottom of the second.  Bryan Merritt singled to right field.  Austin Hurdle followed with a base hit to center and Tyler Pope drew a base on balls off Bertie starter Adam Cowand to load the bases.  Merritt scored the game’s first run on a wild pickoff throw past the Falcon first baseman and the Bears had seized the lead, 1-0, after two innings of play.

Another Hertford County run came in the bottom of the third when Brandon Terry walked and was subbed for pinch-runner Nick Adams.  Adams went to third on a Ryan Weaver double to center field, and then Adams scored on a Merritt RBI groundout for a 2-0 Bear lead through three.

Hertford County broke the game open with a four-run fourth inning.  Hurdle drew a walk, and then on a Pope bunt the throw by the Falcons catcher was wide of the first base bag.  Bertie first baseman Tommy Cowan reached for the throw just as Pope reached first base and the two collided.  Cowan fell to the turf in pain holding his arm with what was later determined to be a separated elbow but no torn ligaments.  He was taken off the field on a stretcher by ambulance to Vidant Bertie Memorial Hospital.

Meanwhile, on the play, Hurdle took third.  When play resumed Pope, who had held at first, went to second on a wild pitch. Hurdle was thrown out at home as batter Chris Adams reached first on a fielder’s choice and Pope moved to third base.  Adams then stole second and one play later Pope scored the game’s third run on a wild pitch.  Eric Ortiz then doubled into the gap in left centerfield, scoring Adams.  Ortiz later moved to third on a wild pitch and scored as Dylan Waterfield reached first on a Bertie throwing error.  Waterfield later stole second, went to third on a wild pitch, and scored on Terry’s RBI groundout.  That gave the Bears a 6-0 lead going into the fifth.

Hertford County picked up their final run in the bottom of the fifth when Merritt walked, went to second on a wild pitch, and scored all the way from there when Ackerman Grace reached on an error, giving the Bears a 7-0 lead.

Bertie finally broke through with their first run of the game in the top of the sixth when Matthew Weaver walked and scored on a Michael Scott RBI double to right field.  Scott was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple.  The hit was the first one surrendered by Grace on the night but Bertie still trailed 7-1.

The Falcons then mounted a seventh inning comeback.  Christian Bland got things going with a one-out single to right.  Cody Matthews drew a base-on-balls and Matthew Evans was hit by a pitch to load the bases.  Javier Pagola then drew a walk and picked up an RBI as Bland crossed the plate.   Weaver then stroked a two-run double into the gap in right center scoring Matthews and Evans and that was all for Grace on the night as Bears coach Chris Towell made a switch.

Merritt took to the hill to relieve Grace and coaxed a groundout from Scott, but Pagola scored on the play to make it 7-5.  Cowand followed and stroked a run-scoring single to center as Weaver came across the plate. Caleb Langdale then came on to pinch-hit and stroked a single to right that put two on with two out. But that’s where the comeback ended as the next Bertie batter struck out to end the game.

Grace pitched six and a third innings for the win and he allowed four runs. Merritt pitched the final two-thirds of an inning allowing two runs.  Cowand was saddled with the loss after allowing six runs.  Scott pitched the final two innings for the Falcons allowing just one run.

Hertford County had eight hits with Ortiz and Pope having two apiece. Terry, Ryan Weaver, Merritt, and Hurdle had one hit each.  Bertie had five hits with one each by Matthew Weaver, Scott, Cowand, Bland, and Langdale.

“Both teams fought their hearts out,” said Towell. “The two best teams in the field played for the title.  Ackerman and Bryan both pitched great.  We have to do a better job of closing out games.”

“I have never been more proud of a team of mine than I am right now,” said Bertie coach Bobby Harmon.  “To deal with all the adversity they dealt with tonight, watching Tommy Cowan leave the field on a stretcher, down to our last two outs in the seventh inning down by six runs, and to keep fighting until we had the tying run on second base just speaks volumes about these kids’ heart.  They made a few more plays than we did but despite the loss I’m very proud of my boys.”

The win marked the second straight Easter Tournament championship for the Bears and raised their record to 12-5.  Both teams return to conference play next week on Tuesday with Northeastern at Hertford County and Bertie (14-5) entertaining Currituck.  Both games start at 7 p.m.