POCOMOKE CITY — Sometimes you need to have a little more left in the tank than the other guy.
Wednesday, March 27, North Dorchester High’s baseball team blew two late leads, and had to put together back-to-back rallies in extra innings against Pocomoke. In the end, the Eagles got the job done, with two runs in the top of the ninth inning for a 9-7 win.
“I told them late that we just needed to keep it together,” said North Dorchester head Steve Lieske after the Eagles improved to 1-1. “I was impressed with our team today. There was a lot of adversity with them in the game today.
“In the past, if we blow one lead, we’re in trouble,” Lieske added. “And if we blow two? Then we’d just fold up the tent and we’d be done. But not today. They really showed a lot of heart today.”
Each team had a big chance to score early.
In the top of the first, ND got a one-out hit by Caleb Justice (4 for 5, two doubles) and Ben Johnson followed with a walk. But the frigid 15 mile-an-hour wind helped kill the rally, when it pushed J.B. Lewis’s pop-fly to right back toward the infield. Because the ball wasn’t ruled an infield fly, Justice and Johnson stayed put, as the ball fell into shallow right field. Though Justice scooted to third without drawing a throw, Johnson, unable to make it to second in time, was retired, right fielder Wyatt Smith hitting shortstop Shawn Taylor for a 9-6 fielder’s choice good enough for the second out. The next batter struck out looking to end the inning.
In the bottom of the first, Eagle starter Adam Freeman beaned Malik Miles with the first pitch. Miles stole second on Freeman’s first offering to Jordan Glovier. On the next pitch, Glovier dropped a sacrifice bunt to the right of the mound, which Freeman, diving down on one knee, fielded and fired to Cole Morrissette at first for an out.
But Miles didn’t stop at third on the sacrifice, and dashed home. Morrissette, hearing his teammates’ pleas, threw home to catcher Lewis in time to complete a 1-3-2 double play. The next batter popped out, ending the first.
In the home second, Taylor drove the first pitch he saw from Freeman into left field for a single, swiped second on the following pitch, and took third two pitches after that. Two batters later, he scored on Cole Robinson’s ground out to short to make it 1-0.
“In the third inning, I told them, it’s a long game, and they needed to just play,” Lieske said. “That’s been our problem in the past; we forget that it’s a seven-inning game.”
ND answered in the top of the third. Grant Walker slapped a one-out double to left field, and Justice followed with another shot there, tying the game. A passed ball moved Justice to third. Ben Johnson walked, and a Lewis ground out to short plated Justice to put the Eagles up, 2-1.
North Dorchester added another run against Pocomoke starter Ethan Peterson in the top of the fourth when Freeman drew a leadoff walk, and his courtesy runner, Adam Ray, eventually scored on a balk.
Things stayed pretty quiet for the fifth and sixth, each team leaving a man on base. In the bottom of the seventh, Freeman, who had thrown 60 pitches through six, came back out to finish.
“Adam threw really well,” Lieske said. “And he threw I think just over 90 today. ... But he’s been getting a lot of work. He’s thrown in the scrimmages, and he pitches a lot in practice, so it’s not like he’s not been out there.”
Peterson led off and made it to first on an error at short. Taylor blasted the next pitch over the left-center field fence for a two-run homer which tied it up.
Lewis replaced Freeman, who threw 92 pitches and got a no-decision, at that point, and retired the next three hitters, two on strikes, to send the game into extra innings.
The Eagles answered in the top of the eighth, with four runs fueled by doubles from Freeman and Grant Walker to make it 7-3.
Pocomoke (0-3) did the exact same thing in the bottom half, though.
“I just told them, believe in yourself,” Pocomoke rookie head coach John Redden said.” We lost the first two games pretty badly (a 10-0 no-hitter to Mardela Monday, and a 21-1 blowout against Washington on Tuesday).
“It’s been a rough first two games — not the way anybody wants to start the year,” Redden added, “and not the way we thought we’d start the year. But I told them to just play the game and not play the scoreboard. We were in the heart of the lineup; I think we had 9-1-2 coming up, so if anyone gets on, we’ve got something good coming. And they responded. ... Moments like what we had today, it’s what you play the game for.”
Freshman Caleb Chrisman — Pocomoke’s third-string third baseman, who was added to the lineup “two minutes before we started,” Redden said, started a four-run rally with a single, his second of the day. Peterson’s two-run single helped Pocomoke pull even 7-7.
North Dorchester had another rally left, though, a Lewis double scoring Ben Johnson to make it 8-7 in the top of the ninth and a Drew Johnson RBI grounder giving the Eagles some insurance.
Pocomoke gave the visitors one last anxious moment, however, when Caleb King struck out to lead off, but made first when the curveball from reliever Lewis bounced to the backstop. A Miles sac bunt put him at second, but Lewis shook it off, striking out Glovier, and retiring Peterson on a foul pop-up to end it.
“I’m hoping today I had some guys turn the corner,” Redden said. “Chrisman really showed something today. A few minutes before the game, our third baseman tells me his arm’s hurting, so I put another guy there, and then he tells me the same thing, so literally, we’re about to start the game and I put Chrisman there. And he played well, made a couple good plays out there.”
“This was a great game for us,” Lieske said. “I’m proud of how they were able to just keep going even though they had a couple rough spots. I hope it can continue.”
Notes: Lewis (1-0) got the win in relief; he struck out five in three innings. ... According to maxpreps.com, the last time North Dorchester baseball was 1-1 or better after two games was March 27, 2008, when the team beat Cambridge-South Dorchester, 8-5, two days after a 15-1 season-opening loss to Easton. ... The Eagles were 2-2 after four games two years ago, but finished 5-14.SOFTBALL
North Dorchester 25, Pocomoke 0 (5 inn.)
POCOMOKE CITY — Kinley Elliott tossed five innings of shutout ball, allowing only three hits and two walks while striking out seven, as the Eagles evened their mark at 1-1.
Lily Allen went 4 for 4 with two singles and two doubles, while Anna Hubbard smacked three hits. Freshmen Curstin Carpenter went over the fence for her first varsity home run.
Kent County 6, Washington 3
WORTON — Brianna Pierce picked up the first win of the season for the Trojans (1-3), allowing two runs, one walks and striking out a pair. Lexi Langenfelder pitched the sixth and seventh innings for the save, yielding a run on two hits.
Yasmine Jiggetts, Madison Kendall and Ally Hickman all drove in runs for Kent County.