Knights hang on to beat rival Pungo

Published 9:31 pm Thursday, March 23, 2017

BELHAVEN — Pungo had the tying runs on base with no outs in the bottom of the seventh. Terra Ceia recovered from an error that let Pungo score the proximate run, then Austin Roscoe retired consecutive batters to hang on for a 4-3 win on Thursday.

That half inning was a microcosm of the game. It came down to whichever team would catch one more break.

“What we stress is put the bat on the baseball. Put it in play and we can make things happen,” Knights coach Roger Klaassen said. “Overall, we did that today. … It’s always tough. Every game we’ve played, I don’t remember blowing each other out at any point in time. They know it’s going to be a battle.”

Raiders coach Joseph Hudnell added, “We’re going to keep hitting the batting cage hard and practice hitting. That’s my big thing is batting. I knew that we had to do. I told them if they kept fielding the ball like they’ve been fielding the past couple games, and just hit the ball, we’d come out on top. But we had a little mishap in the outfield, and that’s how it goes.”

The Knights struck first when Johannes Van Essendelft, who reached after being hit by a pitch, scored on Roscoe’s groundout RBI. Even with the early run, Terra Ceia and Pungo had to fight for everything it got.

“We made the plays when we needed to and our pitching kept them in the ball game,” Klaassen said. “We did what we had to when we had to.”

Knights starter Tyler Hendrix struck out the side in the bottom of the inning. He let the first two batters in the second reach before striking out two more as the visitors stranded a Raider in scoring position.

Pungo was able to take the lead in the bottom of the third. Nate VanStaalduinen singled to centerfield and Brady Hudnell reached on an error. Both came home on Jonathan Langley’s two-out double to left field.

Brady Hudnell slides home during Thursday’s game against Terra Ceia. He and the Raiders were almost able to stop the Knights’ undefeated start.

Terra Ceia immediately answered in the top of the fourth. Shaiquan Moore drew a lead-off walk then used his speed to move around to third base. Messiah Barnes plated him with a single back up the middle to know the game at two apiece.

The Knights were on the verge of blowing the game wide open an inning later. Van Essendelft drew a walk and a pitch hit Quentin Van Essendelft, prompting Hudnell to take over pitching duties from starter Ben Simmons. The Knights got the go-ahead run across when a fly ball bounced out of Langley’s glove and hit him on the head, forcing him out of the game.

Hendrix also got hit with a pitch to load the bases with no outs. Hudnell was able to settle in, though. He fanned back-to-back batters and induced a groundout to prevent further damage.

Pungo set the Knights down in order in the top of the sixth, but also left runners in scoring position in each of the fifth and sixth stanzas. Terra Ceia added an insurance run in the top of the seventh. Quentin Van Essendelft and Roscoe drew consecutive lead-off walks. With two outs, Roscoe came in on a passed ball to give the Knights just enough to keep their undefeated start alive.

“We’ve got to continue what we’re doing,” Klaassen said. “We sure hope we can hit the ball a little better coming forward. Having a long layoff and not seeing live pitching, I was kind of expecting a struggle at the plate today, but we’ve got to get it going now.”