“We haven’t hit the ball with much conviction lately,” says head baseball coach Austin James. After starting conference play a perfect 5-0, the Wildcats hit a rough patch by dropping two of their last three games. It looked like their struggles would continue with 6-13 Broughton paying visit, but Millbrook rallied to score 13 unanswered runs for the 14-3 victory in five innings.
James continues to echo that the team needs to continue to pride themselves on pitching, and defense. On Tuesday night at Wake Forest, and in the opening two innings of Thursday’s contest, the Wildcats struggled to execute in both departments. Before the Millbrook bats even had a chance to step to the plate, they were already in a 2-0 hole. Will Baldwin started the ballgame with a line drive double to left for Broughton. A walk, and a one out single loaded the bases for Cam Epperson who grounded out to bring in a run to make it 1-0 Caps. Millbrook starter Reid Herring had to battle through a 29-pitch inning that saw him fire a wild pitch to score another run in the frame.
Bryce Carnevale laced a one out single to right field to get a first inning rally going for the ‘Cats. Dominic Rodts followed by being hit by a pitch, and then stealing second base, a pitch after Carnevale stole third. Their base running efforts helped cut the deficit in half as Carnevale trotted home to score on an Andrew Strickland ground out. Broughton responded in the top of the second by drawing a walk, and laying down two bunts that Millbrook was unable to get outs on. Once more, the Caps were threatening with the bases loaded and nobody out. Baldwin increased the lead to 3-1 on a fielder’s choice, and that would be all of the offense for the visitors.
Millbrook erupted for seven runs in the bottom of the second to blow the game out of hand against Broughton’s ace, Thomas Walden. In his first at-bat of the inning, Dennis Delgado walked, and his pinch runner Cody Lane promptly stole second two pitches into an Aaron Hodges at-bat that resulted in a walk. Herring helped his own cause with a perfect push bunt on an attempted sacrifice play that he ended up being safe on. Just like that, the Wildcats had loaded the bases for the top of their order. Tyler Snead walked to cut the lead to 3-2, and Bryce Carnevale put Millbrook up for good with a hard hit double into left field that scored Hodges, and Herring’s pinch runner CJ Waters. “Walden is a heck of a pitcher, and we all know how nasty his off-speed pitches are so I just looked for a fastball early, and luckily I was able to do something with it” said Carnevale.
With a 4-3 lead, and two in scoring position, Andrew Strickland rocked a one-hopper to second base that was bobbled to score Snead, and move Carnevale to third. Strickland was safe at first on the play, allowing him to showcase his wheels on the base paths. “Coach (James) gave me a delayed steal sign after my hit, and I was off” said the Wildcat first baseman who stole his first career base on Thursday night. The double steal worked to perfection as Broughton threw down to second unsuccessfully allowing Bryce Carnevale to race home for a 6-3 lead. On the throw back towards home, Strickland put on the jets and made his way to third base. Ethan Banks, who was at the plate for all of this continued his torrid pace with his first career triple to make it 7-3 Wildcats. Since earning a spot in the starting lineup on April 2nd, Banks is hitting .353 (6-for-17) with 5 RBI’s. Delgado, who came to the plate for the second time in the inning squared up a first pitch fastball from the new Broughton pitcher Jacob McCaslin for an RBI double, he too has been swinging a hot bat to the tune of a .357 average in his last six games. The seven run inning gave Millbrook an 8-3 advantage heading into the third inning.
After allowing a lead off single in the top of the third, Herring reached back and struck two of the next three hitters out to escape the inning unharmed. The senior right-hander tossed four innings to move to 4-1 on the season with a 3.87 ERA. He blistered fastballs past Warren Grady, and Mathis Dean for his sixth, and seventh strikeouts of the night to end his outing with the bases stranded full of Capitals in the fourth.
When Herring’s start ended, he was staked with a 10-3 lead after he walked in the bottom of the third, and his pinch-runner, CJ Waters scored a batter later after stealing second, and coming home on a line drive single to center off the bat of Tyler Snead. Snead came around two batters later when Dominic Rodts launched an RBI double to right field. Millbrook wasn’t done offensively as they managed to run-rule Broughton with a four run bottom of the fourth.
Hodges, and Herring singled to start the fourth, and Snead joined them on the bases after a walk. With the bags full of Wildcats, Broughton elected to bring on lefthander Warren Grady. Already 2-3 on the night with a pair of RBI’s, Bryce Carnevale grooved the second pitch of the at-bat to the right field corner to clear the bases. “I really didn’t think it would stay fair, or even go that far”, said the senior left fielder. He moved over to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a groundout from Rodts to make it 14-3 Millbrook.
Porter Baldwin worked around a hit batsman in the fifth to close out the victory with three consecutive groundouts. Millbrook moves to 12-7 with the win, they’re now 8-2 in the conference. They play back-to-back-to-back games next week with the first two coming on the road at New Bern (a makeup from early February), and on the road at Wakefield. The Wildcats host Heritage on Thursday night in a pivotal matchup with first place in the conference potentially being on the line.