Washington drops out of automatic playoff spot after third straight conference loss

Published 3:23 pm Wednesday, April 18, 2018


Kinston Free Press

LA GRANGE – A big game between two teams chasing the playoffs was decided by North Lenoir’s timely hitting, while Washington could not score runners on base, leading to the Hawks’ 6-4 victory Tuesday night.

North Lenoir (12-4, 6-2) entered the game in a three-way tie for first place in the Eastern Carolina 2A Conference, and with the win, along with the win by Greene Central (10-6, 6-2) and a loss by South Lenoir (9-6, 5-3) at Ayden-Grifton (11-7, 2-5), the Hawks are now just tied with the Rams.

The Rams and Hawks play Friday, with the winner taking the lead in the conference. Back in March, the two played and North Lenoir held the lead until the seventh before Greene Central tied the game up, and won in the eighth inning.

“They’re going to give us their best, and I wouldn’t expect anything less,” North Lenoir coach Jackson Massey said. “We’ll have a good practice Thursday, and we’ll worry about Greene Central then.”

Massey added he likes that his team is now in position to control its own destiny.

For Washington (10-5, 4-4), this game was a big blow. The Pam Pack entered reeling off two straight conference losses, and was tied for second place in the league. But with West Craven (12-4, 4-3) off, the loss dropped Washington to fifth place. In 2A baseball, no more than 4 teams from one conference earn automatic bids to the state playoffs. Washington only has 4 games left in conference play, while being a half a game back from fourth.

“We went through the first time pretty good,” Washington manager Kevin Leggett said. “Maybe they kind of got a little slack with it, but hopeful their minds are getting right because it’s down to the wire now.”

North Lenoir has been good in tight games this year as the Hawks are 6-3 in contests decided by three runs or less.

After Washington scored a second-inning run, North Lenoir starter Peyton Howard stranded two in scoring position. Howard went 5 1/3 innings while striking out 6 and only allowing 3 runs, 2 earned.

Aaron Jarman came back in the bottom frame of the inning and smacked a home run. In the third inning, the Hawks turned an error into a 2-run rally. Then in the fifth, an errant throw that failed to turn a double play on a runner hung out to dry at second, set up a 3-run bomb for Quinton Pittman, which ultimately decided the game.

“We caught a few breaks, and that’s what good teams are supposed to do,” Massey said. “When somebody gives you extra chances, you got to take advantage of them.”

Meanwhile, Washington left three runners in scoring position.

“We’re not getting the big hits when we need to,” Leggett said. “The last few games, we’re getting plenty of runners on, we’re just not getting them in. We just got to step up a little bit. Pitching has been fine. Defense has been good for the most part. We just got to score some runs.”

The Pam Pack will look to end its losing streak when it hits the road on Friday to take on Ayden-Grifton at 7 p.m.