Eagles defend crown

Published 10:08 am Sunday, April 12, 2015

LASKER – Three times was a charm.

Northeast Academy won the Sgt. Will McLawhorn Memorial Scholarship Baseball Tournament here Thursday night in a runaway, 13-3, over Bethel Assembly Christian Academy.

It was the third time in the event’s four-year history that the Eagles had taken their Easter holiday tournament and by their widest margin of victory ever.

Nathan Rowe went the distance for Northeast to pick up the win on the mound, and he did it at the dish as well: going three for three and driving in a pair of runs.  He also gave up just five hits on the hill for three runs and he also had seven strikeouts.

Teammate Christian Bland was three-for-four and drove in three runs.  Austin Brinkley and Matt Little had two hits each for Northeast.  Peyton Galloway, Branden Edwards, and Trey Futrell had the other hits for the Eagles with Futrell driving in a pair of runs.

“My pitching was outstanding, my guys hit all through the lineup, and I couldn’t be prouder of this team,” said Northeast coach Billy-Boy Bridgers.

A year ago NEA came from behind to win it in the last inning and in 2012 they won by a three-run margin.

Bethel threatened in the top of the first inning, getting a couple of runners in scoring position before Rowe got a pair of strikeouts to end the inning.

Northeast then put four runs up in their half of the first.  Futrell opened with a walk, stole second and came home on Rowe’s double to left.  One out later, Brinkley unleashed a blast over the left field fence, scoring he and Rowe with two more Eagle runs.  Edwards later singled and stole second before Little doubled him home with the fourth and final run of the inning for a 4-0 NEA lead.

The Eagles got three more in the bottom of the second: Futrell walked again and stole second.  Rowe then singled to get two men on before Bland’s single scored Futrell.  One out later, Galloway singled to right to score Rowe and Bland to make it 7-0, Northeast, after two complete.

Northeast blew it open with five more runs in the bottom of the third, highlighted by Bland’s two-run blast to the deepest part of the ballpark in straightaway centerfield that scored a pair.  Earlier, Futrell tripled and drove in two more, and Rowe made his night three-for-three with a base-hit that delivered the other run. With a 12-0 lead on the chilly night, most Eagle fans thought it would be a shortened game.

But Bethel had other ideas.  In the top of the fourth they finally got to Rowe when Trent Davidson reached on an error, went to third on Chandler Cullipher’s single to right field – just the second hit Rowe surrendered – and then Davidson scored  on Lanier’s base-hit to get the Askewville Eagles on the board, though they trailed 12-1.

It wouldn’t be a four-and-a-half inning affair either as BACA cashed in two more runs, both unearned in the top of the fifth.  Colton Hoggard scored on an error, and Cullipher’s second hit of the night scored Daniel Castello to make it a nine-run lead, 12-3, meaning Northeast would have more work to do in their half of the fifth to win it.

It didn’t take the Eagles long to send their shivering fans home happy.  Bland led off with a deep shot to left that he legged out for a double, and then reached third on the same play because of a throwing error.  Ninety feet away, the Bethel reliever unleashed a wild pitch and Bland slid in with the night’s game-clincher.

Josh Bunch took the loss for Bethel and also got a hit as Cullipher went two-for-three and Davidson and Alex Lanier had the other hits for the Eagles.

Bridgers, doused with a water bucket by his players after the game summed up the evening nicely, “That was some ball game, huh?”