Washington 10U All-Stars rally in sixth to beat Hickory

Published 4:27 pm Friday, July 31, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS CLUTCH HITTING: Austin Cherry and Keifer Boyd exchange handshakes after a Zac Lilley double in the sixth inning, which broke the 2-2 tie.

CLUTCH HITTING: Austin Cherry and Keifer Boyd exchange handshakes after a Zac Lilley double in the sixth inning, which broke the 2-2 tie.

The Washington 10U All-Stars pieced together a five-run top of the sixth on Friday to defeat the Hickory All-Stars, 7-4, in the second round of the Little Tarheel State Championship, held at the Susiegray McConnell Complex in Washington.

A day removed from Hodges Manning’s late-inning heroics, this time it was a collective effort from the heart of the Washington lineup when the team needed it most. In the sixth, five-straight hits, including doubles from Keifer Boyd and Zac Lilley, coupled with an RBI infield fly and a single, broke a 2-2 tie and locked up a place in the tournament semi-finals.

“They don’t see a baseball game as every single at bat they take, or just walking someone, or just striking out,” said head coach Chip Edwards after the game. “They see it as a six-inning ballgame, every one of them, whether they’re getting blown out or blowing someone out. The fact that it’s tied in the first four or five innings is not really a concern for them. That’s them being mature, knowing each other really well and knowing what each other can do at the plate.”

After control problems cut Washington starter Zac Lilley’s afternoon short, Evan Waters utilized an unconventional, across-the-body delivery to keep his team in the game through the final four innings. Waters recorded three strikeouts, while allowing just two walks and three hits.

“Evan is an unusual pitcher and when I say unusual, his delivery is different, which often times is really good,” Edwards said. “Clayton Kershaw’s delivery (of the Los Angeles Dodgers) is the weirdest thing in baseball, but no one can hit it, and that’s kind of how Evan is. He throws the ball well and it moves when he throws it.”

Despite being held to a season-low five base runners on Thursday, the bats came alive off Hickory starter Ajay Swisher, but Washington would strand five base runners through the first four innings.

In the first, lefty Connor Edwards led off with an opposite-field single and with two outs, an error at short on a grounder by Lilley scored Edwards, giving Washington a 1-0 advantage.

Hickory had its answer in the bottom of the second after four walks and a single by Jaden Camero gave the host its first deficit of the tournament, 2-1.

But Eli Huynh and Boyd came to the rescue in the next frame. Hayden Moore reached first via base on balls and with two outs, Huynh crushed a double to the fence in left-center, placing two runners in scoring position. Boyd followed with a single up the middle, scoring Moore, but a good relay prevented Huynh from reaching home.

With the score knotted at two a piece, both pitching staffs traded strikeouts until the sixth inning when Washington took control. Following back-to-back doubles from Boyd and Lilley, Austin Cherry singled to left, Reid Apple singled to center and Evan Waters singled to right, the latter plating Lilley and Cherry. Apple came around to score on a dropped infield fly and a two-out single from Moore scored Waters.

“It’s not necessarily getting hits every time, but getting productive outs and putting runs on the board,” Edwards said. “We know we’re a good team, we know we’re resilient and we work really hard. There are a lot of good teams in this tournament, but we’ve played two of the better ones. We’re really proud of how well the boys have been with the situation.”

Washington held a 7-2 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth, but Hickory would go down fighting. The first two batters reached on a walk and a single. After a fly out to center, Britt Rumbough rocketed a double to right field, scoring Gage Cochrane from first. Jonah Shield came around to score on an RBI ground out, but Waters ended the inning by inducing a fly ball to the outfield.

“The thing we’ve worked on with Evan (Waters) is building his confidence after something bad happens,” Edwards said. “The last inning was a perfect example of Evan’s maturity. He gave up two runs, several hits and in the past, he probably would have dropped his head a little bit. But he didn’t. He had a mature, happy attitude and went right back at it. When we see that in Evan, we ride it because he’s hard to beat.”

Boyd, Cherry and Apple finished with two hits apiece and a combined three RBIs, while Moore reached base in all three of his at bats.

With the win, Washington advances to Round 3 and will face the winner of Jamesville and Cleveland County today at 10 a.m. on Field 4.