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By David Sharp
Knox County displayed good situational hitting while stopping a potent Salisbury offense in key spots for a 7-5 win on April 4, 2022 at Knox County. The Eagles (3-1, 1-0 in the Lewis and Clark Conference) scored three times in the first two innings.
Early Eagle offense helped keep momentum in the home team dugout. Salisbury (3-2, 0-1) fought back to tie the score at five each with a four run fifth inning. Robert Dooley launched a two out, two run Knox County home run in the bottom of the sixth inning for a 7-5 lead.
The Eagles held off a seventh inning Panther rally. Salisbury had the tying runs on base and the potential go ahead run at the plate when Knox County reliever Rylan Roberts struck out a batter for the second out.
“We knew this was going to be one of the best games we would have,” Braxton McCurren said. “We were conference co-champs last year. Each teams has a respect for each other. We both know how good we can be.”
“They got us in the head-to-head last year. We didn’t compete last year,” Braxton McCurren said. “This year we knew we would have to compete to win and we did that. It was a team win that’s for sure. This was a good baseball game that we played.
The umpiring crew ruled Roberts rubbed the baseball in the dirt and restricted the junior hurler to the dugout. Braxton McCurren came to the mound, retiring Salisbury batter Brady Graskewicz on a ground ball for the final out.
“Knox County’s batters had a better idea what to do at the plate,” Salisbury coach Nate King said. “My guys let too many of them go. They hit good pitches early in the count. Their hitters fouled off tough pitches late in the count. They just out hit us. It’s that simple.”
“We had misplays in the outfield,” Nate King said. “They had trouble reading it off the white sky. The pitching was pretty comparable. Defenses were pretty comparable. The hitting was the difference.”
Knox County pitched around a leadoff walk to Ryan Binder then a Jake Sellers hit. Braydon Miller hauled in a fly ball then threw to catcher Isaac McCurren for a first inning double play.
Isaac McCurren and Rylan Roberts touched Panther starter Ethan Hamilton for consecutive hits starting off the KCHS first inning. Braxton McCurren was hit by a pitch, loading the bases with none out.
Robert Dooley drilled a two run hit for a 2-0 Eagle edge after one complete inning. Knox County starter Blake Parrish worked past a pair of two out walks, striking out a Panther batter to end a scoreless Salisbury second inning.
Braydon Miller ignited a two out second inning rally with a double. Isaac McCurren delivered a two out RBI hit for a 3-0 tally after two complete innings. Salisbury countered when Jake Sellers singled with one out in the third inning and scored on an error for a 3-1 score.
Knox County hit back when Braxton McCurren drove a home run over the fence leading off the KCHS third inning. Robert Dooley followed the circuit clout with a double. Salisbury pitcher Ethan Hamilton clamped down, stranding the runner on third base.
Knox County led 4-1 after three and a half innings. Isaac McCurren started another two out rally with a base hit off Panther reliever Ryan Binder. Rylan Roberts sent McCurren home with a two out RBI hit.
Braxton McCurren singled, putting Eagles on first and second base. Binder induced a fly out to right field for a 5-1 KCHS lead after four full frames. Salisbury saw their first two batters reach on fifth inning singles. An outfield error and a hit batsman prolonged the inning.
Aidan West delivered a two run, two out Salisbury hit. Brady Graskewicz stroked an RBI single. Rylan Roberts came in to pitch. Roberts struck out a batter to retire the side. The game went to the Knox County fifth inning tied at five runs each.
Kellen Parrish singled leading off the KC fifth. Ryan Binder struck out the next two batters. Branson Miller singled with two out. Binder won a competitive at bat to keep the game tied after five innings.
A good defensive play kept a Panther batter off the bases for the second out of the Salisbury sixth. Isaac McCurren doubled leading off the Eagle sixth inning. Braxton McCurren delivered a one out RBI grounder, scoring Isaac McCurren for a 6-5 Knox County edge.
Robert Dooley gave the Eagles an insurance run with a two out home run for a 7-5 lead. “He has been working hard all year,” Knox County coach David Cameron said of Braxton McCurren. “He was able to get the kid out.”
“We hit the ball hard one through nine in the lineup. Defense was pretty good for the most part,” David Cameron said. “We had a little mis communication where we dropped the ball. If we make that play, they don’t score four runs (in the fifth inning.) We don’t have to be put in that situation.”
Eli Wekenborg singled after Rylan Roberts struck out the Salisbury leadoff batter in the seventh inning. A walk to Ethan Hamilton put the tying runs on the bases with one out.
Aidan West struck out. Braxton McCurren earned a save when he induced a ground ball out to end the game. Salisbury scored five runs on seven hits. Jake Sellers was 2-4 at the plate to lead the Panther offense. Aidan West drove in two Panther runs.
Ethan Hamilton pitched the first three innings for Salisbury with five strikeouts, no walks on seven hits. All four runs charged to Hamilton were earned. Ryan Binder pitched the last three innings, taking the loss in relief. Binder struck out four on eight hits and three earned runs.
Knox County scored seven runs on 15 hits. Isaac McCurren went 4-4 a bat with three runs scored and another batted in. Robert Dooley was 3-4 with two home runs and three batted in.
Rylan Roberts, Braxton McCurren, and Kellen Parrish had two Knox County hits each. Braxton McCurren had a home run and two RBI’s.
Blake Parrish pitched the first four and 2/3 innings with three strikeouts and three walks on six hits. Two of the five runs charged to Parrish were earned. Rylan Roberts went two innings, picking up the win in relief. Roberts struck out six of his eight batters faced with one walk and one hit allowed. Braxton McCurren faced one batter for the save.
“Rylan Roberts was in line to get both the win and the close. Braxton McCurren came in throwing hard and lights out,” David Cameron said. “We have got a pretty good pitching staff. They showed it tonight against a good hitting Salisbury team.”