Demons fend off Firebirds in 3-A opener | The Enterprise
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Demons fend off Firebirds in 3-A opener

Posted on May 11, 2022

School SportsSports
Fike base runner Demari Daniels dances off third base as head coach Buck Edmundson looks on during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game against Southern Nash at Gilbert Ferrell Field.

Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times

Fike base runner Demari Daniels dances off third base as head coach Buck Edmundson looks on during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game against Southern Nash at Gilbert Ferrell Field.

Fike’s Noah Joyner, left, flinches after the ball flew over his head away from Southern Nash’s Greyson Curtis during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game at Gilbert Ferrell Field.

Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times

Fike’s Noah Joyner, left, flinches after the ball flew over his head away from Southern Nash’s Greyson Curtis during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game at Gilbert Ferrell Field.

Southern Nash junior Landen Baker (7) fires a pitch during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game against Fike at Gilbert Ferrell Field.

Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times

Southern Nash junior Landen Baker (7) fires a pitch during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game against Fike at Gilbert Ferrell Field.

Fike catcher Noah Joyner tags out Southern Nash’s Keegan Wallace (10) on a play at the plate during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game at Gilbert Ferrell Field.

Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times

Fike catcher Noah Joyner tags out Southern Nash’s Keegan Wallace (10) on a play at the plate during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game at Gilbert Ferrell Field.

Fike infielder J.D. Graziani throws the ball to first base during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game against Southern Nash at Gilbert Ferrell Field.

Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times

Fike infielder J.D. Graziani throws the ball to first base during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game against Southern Nash at Gilbert Ferrell Field.

Fike pitchert Tristan Little makes a delivery during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game against Southern Nash at Gilbert Ferrell Field.

Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times

Fike pitchert Tristan Little makes a delivery during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game against Southern Nash at Gilbert Ferrell Field.

Fike base runner Demari Daniels dances off third base as head coach Buck Edmundson looks on during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game against Southern Nash at Gilbert Ferrell Field.

Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times

Fike base runner Demari Daniels dances off third base as head coach Buck Edmundson looks on during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game against Southern Nash at Gilbert Ferrell Field.

Fike’s Noah Joyner, left, flinches after the ball flew over his head away from Southern Nash’s Greyson Curtis during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game at Gilbert Ferrell Field.

Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times

Fike’s Noah Joyner, left, flinches after the ball flew over his head away from Southern Nash’s Greyson Curtis during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game at Gilbert Ferrell Field.

Fike’s Noah Joyner, left, flinches after the ball flew over his head away from Southern Nash’s Greyson Curtis during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game at Gilbert Ferrell Field.
Southern Nash junior Landen Baker (7) fires a pitch during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game against Fike at Gilbert Ferrell Field.
Fike catcher Noah Joyner tags out Southern Nash’s Keegan Wallace (10) on a play at the plate during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game at Gilbert Ferrell Field.
Fike infielder J.D. Graziani throws the ball to first base during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game against Southern Nash at Gilbert Ferrell Field.
Fike pitchert Tristan Little makes a delivery during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game against Southern Nash at Gilbert Ferrell Field.
Fike base runner Demari Daniels dances off third base as head coach Buck Edmundson looks on during Tuesday’s NCHSAA 3-A first-round playoff game against Southern Nash at Gilbert Ferrell Field.

Special to the Times

Sophomore second baseman Jake Flowers’ two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the sixth inning broke the tension and the host Fike High baseball team proceeded to a 6-2 triumph against neighboring Southern Nash in the opening round of the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs on a breezy Tuesday night.

Fike, seeded No. 15 among the 32 3-A East Region entrants, owned a 3-0 lead until No. 17 Southern Nash cut the deficit to 3-2 with its two runs in the top of the sixth inning.

The Golden Demons, No. 3 from the 3-A Quad County Conference, pushed their advantage to 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth and Flowers provided timely insurance with his two-run single that scored first baseman Luke Bedford and pinch hitter Evan Ferrell.

“That was huge,” Fike head coach Buck Edmundson said of Flowers’ shot into the hole between third base and shortstop.

Added senior third baseman Ethan Williams: “We needed the insurance runs pretty bad.”

Thus, Fike, now 16-6, earned a trip to play No. 2 South Brunswick on Friday. The Demons are back into the playoffs after a one-year absence.

The Firebirds, No. 2 from the 2-A/3-A Big East Conference, exited at 16-7. Head coach Todd Brewer’s squad was returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2018 and was seeking its first postseason win since 2016.

Southern Nash and Fike were members of the 3-A Big East Conference until NCHSAA realignment went into effect this school year.

“We were happy to come play,” Brewer expressed, “but it would have been nice to have seen someone different. But we could have gone down to the coast, played and not get the result we wanted. At least, this was a short trip.”

In a duel of ace right-handed pitchers — senior Tristan Little of Fike and junior Landen Baker of the Firebirds — the Demons more effectively capitalized on their opportunities and the attempt to resort to “small ball” did not click for Southern Nash.

In working six innings, Little hiked his record to 8-2, allowing six hits, two runs (one earned) and one walk while striking out five. Fike right-hander Jacob Wiggs, a senior, worked the seventh and, relying on breaking pitches, struck out three.

Baker also stands 8-2 after lasting 5 2/3 innings and yielding six hits, six runs (five earned) and two walks. Baker struck out six. Southern Nash’s ace entered with an 1.18 earned run average.

“In our conference, we saw tough pitching all year,” Edmundson noted, “and we knew (Baker) was going to be the equivalent of some we had seen. Our approach was not to let one player beat us.”

The Firebirds created opportunities but were betrayed by their base running and bunting game.

Brewer explained not scoring after placing base runners at first and third with no outs in the second was critical, and momentum waned with a base runner being thrown out on a steal attempt in the second and another thrown out at the plate by Fike  freshman left fielder Spencer Bass in the fourth.

“We haven’t done a lot of small ball,” Brewer said, “because we have three big hitters (senior catcher A.J. High, Baker and sophomore first baseman Keegan Wallace) in the middle of the lineup.

“They hit the ball well again tonight. But we couldn’t seem to get the timely hit when we needed it. We made untimely mistakes and they made us pay.”

Wallace rapped a double and single in three at-bats. Baker, who entered with 12 home runs, was limited to a sixth-inning triple.

“I try to take pitches backside,” Wallace reviewed his success at the plate. “I try to take it backside from pole to pole with line drives. Landen pitched pretty well, but the timely hits were not there. We didn’t play small ball like we needed. If we do that, it’s a different ball game. We didn’t want to end our season here.”

Fike seized a 1-0 lead it never relinquished in the first. Senior third baseman Ethan Williams led off with a double and scored on a wild pitch. In the third, senior catcher Noah Joyner reached on an error and scampered home on senior shortstop J.D. Graziani’s single. The cushion became 3-0 in the fifth, when Williams slammed his second double and came around on Joyner’s double.

“I knew this could be my last game and I wanted to go out with the best I could do,” Williams said of his 2-for-3 outing. “We have been seeing pitching like that all season. It was nothing new. It’s pretty good competition in the conference we play in, and they were not ready for what we had.”

Before Flowers’ hit, the Demons added a fourth run on Graziani’s single, a wild pitch and Little’s RBI single.”

Edmundson pointed out the Firebirds defeated his Fike team twice last season and remarked: “We knew they had confidence. But we got our hits when we needed them. Noah, J.D., Tristan and Ethan all did well.”

Southern Nash came to life in the sixth with a hit batsman, Baker’s triple, Wallace’s run-scoring grounder and a dropped fly ball in right field with two out.

Edmundson and the Demons were not convinced the fly ball was fair, but Edmundson emphasized: “We’ve got to catch the ball.”

“(Fike) got the big hit when they needed it,” Brewer summarized. “Fike is a good team. But our guys fought back hard and gave ourselves a chance.”

Score by innings:

SN 000 002 0 2

Fike 101 012 x 6

WP-Tristan Little (8-2) 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO. LP-Landen Baker (8-2) 5 2/3 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 SO.

LEADING HITTERS — Southern Nash: Keegan Wallace 2-3, 2B, RBI; Landen Baker 1-3, 3B, RBI; Blake Strickland 1-3, John Tolleson 1-2, Grayson Curtis 1-3. Fike: Ethan Williams 2-3, 2 2B, 2 R; Jake Flowers 1-3, 2 RBI; Noah Joyner 1-3, 3B, RBI; J.D. Graziani 2-3, 2B, RBI; Tristan Little 1-3, RBI.

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