Pungo wins in pitchers’ duel

Published 8:30 pm Monday, April 28, 2014



The last time the Pungo and Terra Ceia took to the baseball diamond to renew the historic county rivalry, Belhaven and Pantego were just two days removed from a destructive EF-2 tornado that devastated parts of both communities. In a way, the game of baseball offered a sense of normalcy for two towns in need of a distraction.

In the wake of Friday night’s string of EF-2 and EF-3 twisters, the Knights and Raiders squared off at the Susiegray McConnell Sports Complex and finished with an oddly similar result. On the back of their lights-out ace Cole Austin Woolard, Pungo, once again, took the contest, 2-0.

“We asked them before the game to go out there and play and show that we belonged on this field with them,” said Terra Ceia coach and athletic director Roger Klaassen. “Today, they showed we did.”

On the hill, it was a rematch between both squads’ best hurlers, a battle between veteran and newcomer. Freshman Austin Roscoe toed the rubber for the Knights and pitched a masterful seven innings.

Out of the gate, it was Roscoe with the upper hand, making a statement by striking out six of the first seven batters he faced. For Woolard, apparent arm soreness resulted in a drop in velocity and lack of command early on, but the senior leader persevered and worked his way out of jams, walking three and striking out three over the first two innings.

In the third, Woolard walked Brent Hubers in a lengthy at bat and followed that up by drilling Roscoe with a fastball. Again, with two runners on, the Raider ace escaped danger after his infield bailed him out with a double play. Roscoe, on the other hand, allowed his first hit in the third, but collected his seventh and eighth strikeouts to close the inning.

While Roscoe remained poised throughout the game, Woolard gained strength with each frame, as he slowly began to reclaim his command, up his velocity and make Knights batters swing and miss. By the end of the seventh inning, the game remained scoreless with both starters cresting the double-digit strikeout mark.

In the top of the eighth, head coach Jason Wynne called upon another one of his young guns, freshman Tyler Hendrix, to continue where Roscoe left off. After retiring the first two batters, Woolard singled and reached second on an error by the Knights’ shortstop, giving cleanup man Ryan Tooley a chance to put the Raiders on top with two outs.

The junior stepped up and delivered with a cleanly hit base knock to the gap in right-center. Two batters later, Marcus Williams followed by lining a shot to left-center, plating Tooley and giving Pungo a 2-0 lead.

There was little doubt who would close the game for the Raiders.

Despite allowing seven walks, Woolard walked onto the mound in the eight with a no hitter still intact. Roscoe stepped to the plate and – in under a minute – was already on his way back to the dugout, the Knights’ top hitter striking out on three pitches. Next, Quentin Van Essendelft broke up the no hitter with a liner past the outstretched hand of the Pungo shortstop and into left field.

Woolard shook the blemish off and retired Hendrix and Griffin Jackson to end the game.

“We started out kind of slow,” said Pungo head coach John Scott Cutler. “Austin pitched a fantastic game and is a great young pitcher. He’s done that to us for 14 innings this year. We were just a tad better in the long run, and that’s what ended up being the difference.”

Roscoe finished with 12 strikeouts, allowing just five hits and one walk.

“He’s got a bright future,” Klaassen said. “He’s only a freshman and threw an outstanding seven innings. We just couldn’t come up with that run for him, but he’s an outstanding athlete.”

Woolard also finished with 12 Ks, while allowing just that one hit to Van Essendelft.

“He’s carried us the whole season,” Cutler said. “But, we’re going to rely on some other guys if we’re going to go deep in the conference tournament or the state tournament, but he’s meant the world to us. He’s really going to be missed after this season.”

With the win, the Raiders improve to 10-5 this season and lock up a first-round bye in the TIC Tournament scheduled to begin on Thursday in Merry Hill. For the Knights, the loss drops them to 7-5.

“Right now we’re going to work on the basic fundamental stuff,” Cutler said. “We’re going to work on hitting the ball, defense, but I mean, if my man can pitch like that … you don’t need to play a whole lot of defense.”