Northside’s bats quiet in 3-1 loss to Bear Grass

Published 11:30 pm Thursday, April 27, 2017

PINETOWN — Northside had one out to work with, needing two runs in the bottom of the seventh to erase Bear Grass’ 3-1 lead. Brock Marsh lifted a base hit to left field. Matthew Marslender followed with a hard-hit ball to shortstop that was too hot to handle.

The Panthers, fighting to tie the Bears atop the 1-A Coastal Plains Conference standings, had the tying runs on. James Barrow swung and missed, but the visiting catcher dropped the third strike. Barrow was a step short on safely reaching third base, and the Bears clinched the conference title.

The late push was a microcosm of the Panthers’ offense all evening: too little, too late. Marsh’s single in the seventh was their first of the game. None of their runners advanced past first base until the sixth inning when Ethan Cosentino drew a leadoff walk and ended up scoring on Grant Talbot’s suicide squeeze.

“The first time we played them, we did scratch five hits,” Boyd said. The Panthers fell at Bear Grass, 2-1, on March 28. “One base hit the whole game, you’re not going to win. Our pitching and defense is as good as any body else in eastern North Carolina. Our Achilles heel has been hitting the baseball against good pitching.

“… You’ve got to create your own offense. I applaud the kids the kids. They’re fighting until the last out. We’re a gap away from tying that game up. We’ll just keep our heads up and keep fighting.”

Northside’s pitching came out guns blazing when starter Zach Woolard gave up a hit sandwiched between a pair of strikeouts. Woolard and company couldn’t get out of the frame without first conceding a run, though, as Braxton Manning plated Jordan Berry with an RBI single to left field. The home side’s defense did quickly recover by getting out of a bases-loaded jam.

Defensively, Northside made most, if not all, of the plays it needed to win. It erased a two-out single by Berry when he was caught between first and second base on a steal attempt.

Bear Grass managed to scratch together a run in in the third and fourth frames to take a 3-0 lead. The damage could have been more substantial had the Panthers not stranded two in scoring position in the third.

Zach Griffin took the mound in relief to start the fifth. Woolard finished with three runs (all earned) on five hits and three walks. He fanned five batters. Griffin gave up a leadoff single, but negated it when Marslender gunned the opposing runner down as he tried to steal second. He heaved the ball to second baseman Tanner Alligood, who leaped up to snag the throw and contorted himself to apply the tag as he was falling back down.

Northside’s offense couldn’t muster much. The Panthers were retired in order in the first, third and fifth innings. Woolard drew a walk in the second and Parker Boyd was hit by a pitch in the fourth, but neither made it past first.