Sealed with a hit

Published 11:35 am Monday, May 15, 2017

AHOSKIE – It had been six years since the Ridgecroft School had made the NC Independent Schools Athletic Association baseball post-season – nine years since they’d won a game.

The 2017 squad erased that bad memory in a hurry.  Actually, they ended up waiting until the last inning.

Wyatt Whitley’s walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh inning here Wednesday that scored Zeb Askew gave the Rams a 2-1 win over Hickory Christian Academy, Ridgecroft’s first post-season win since 2008.

The game – moved up a day due to the threat of inclement weather – had been a pitching duel between the Rams’ Nick Hoggard and the Knights’ Andy Cook.

The Rams’ first threat came in the bottom of the first when Askew walked, went to second base when David Basnight reached on an error and both runners moved up on a passed ball.  Hoggard then drew a walk, but Cook struck out the next three in a row to kill the threat.

In the third inning, Hoggard reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second, and advanced to third on a passed ball.  But once again strikeouts stopped the Rams in their tracks.

Hoggard smacked a two-out double in the bottom of the fifth, but once more was left stranded thanks to a strikeout.

Finally, in the top of the seventh, the ice was broken.  The Knights opened with a double, went to second on an error, and scored on a one-out groundout that made it 1-0, Hickory, but the Knights could get no more.

Just when it looked like that one run would stand, back came the Rams.  In the bottom of the seventh Nick White relieved Cook for Hickory and surrendered a one-out double to Boone Barkley to get a Ram runner in scoring position.  Askew followed with a triple – his first hit of the day – and that scored Barkley to knot the game at 1-apiece.  After Basnight and Hoggard walked to load the bases, Whitley delivered the game winner, unleashing a wild celebration at home plate.

Hoggard earned the complete-game win for Ridgecroft, allowing a run on four hits, striking out three, and walking one. White took the loss for Hickory in relief of Cook. He pitched one and one-third innings, giving up two runs, three hits, and striking out one. Cook tossed five innings, surrendering zero runs, one hit, and striking out nine.

Askew, Hoggard, Whitley, and White had hits for the Rams while Whitley and Askew each drove in a run.

The win earned Ridgecroft a Thursday date in round-two against Lawrence Academy, their third meeting with the Warriors in 14 days.