DOBSON — One team had perhaps spent a little too much time away from the diamond. The other was due to bust out.
The combination led to a surprisingly one-sided outcome in a non-conference game played Monday evening, with visiting Starmount bashing out 14 hits against three Surry Central pitchers and coming away with a 13-3 victory.
“We’ve been hitting the ball, but we’ve not been finding any holes whatsoever,” said Starmount coach Caleb Pardue. “Our approaches at the plate were a lot more relaxed and loose. We put pressure on them, which is all you can do. Overall, I’m very pleased.”
Starmount (3-8) snapped a five-game skid, taking the lead for good on a two-run single by Brock Mullins in the top of the third inning and blowing it open with an eight-run seventh that saw 14 batters come to the plate. Pitchers Dawson Smith and Dalton Oliver held the Golden Eagles in check throughout the evening, causing Surry Central (5-5) to leave eight runners on base, including five in scoring position.
Central coach Matt Scott wasn’t disappointed with what the Rams earned — the 14 hits were nearly all hard-hit balls — but he wasn’t impressed with what his team gave away, including seven walks and four errors that led to five unearned runs.
“We seemed to have a little rust on us. We had Friday, Saturday and Sunday off, and I think that was a mistake on my part,” he said. “The seven walks and four errors didn’t help, but you have to give a lot of the credit to Starmount. I told Coach Pardue that they sure found some holes tonight. They hit the ball all over the place against us.”
The game started out as a shootout, as each team scored two runs off four hits in its first swings of the evening. Starmount opened the game with singles by Peyton Mullins, Henry Stone, Smith and Brock Mullins, netting a pair of runs for their efforts. The Eagles answered in their half of the inning with four consecutive hits of their own to start with. Riley Dockery and Ethan Danley reached to start things off, and then Central caught a bit of a break when Tyler Myers dumped a lazy bloop between the third baseman and left fielder, just fair, to score Dockery. The Eagles caught a second break when Garrett Durham lined one into left-center field. Starmount center fielder Peyton Mullins, while trying to make a shoestring catch, accidentally kicked the ball to his left.
Then things started to go the Rams’ way. Danley scored, but Myers was nabbed trying to take third base on the play, with center fielder Andrew Smythers alertly retrieving the loose ball and firing home to Stone, who cut the ball off and threw to Brock Mullins at third. The next two batters walked to load the bases with two out, but Smith got Garrett Johnson to hit a soft liner to second to retire the side.
The Rams took the lead for good in the third. With one out, Henry Stone walked and Patrick Usher singled. The next batter, Smith, thought he’d walked on a 3-2 pitch from Silas Hutson and was on his way to first when the umpire called strike two. He struck out swinging on the next pitch, and the Eagles thought they might wiggle off the hook. But Brock Mullins got one into the third base-shortstop hole, and the hit resulted in two runs for Starmount when Central committed an error.
“You’re not going to beat a team of any quality fielding like we did today,” said Scott. “We’d have to score like Carolina basketball does to win this way.”
The Rams needed no help from Surry Central on their fifth run of the night. With one down in the top of the fifth, Stone sent a towering fly to deep left field for his first career home run, and Starmount held a 5-2 lead.
“We hadn’t come close to hitting one out all year,” Pardue said. “That was our first, and the first of his career.”
The Eagles got the run back in their half of the sixth. Chandler Johnson singled to center of the first pitch and then Chandler Daughenbaugh walked on five pitches. Pardue realized that Smith had given the Rams all that he had, and ordered Oliver into the game to pitch.
Central decided to play for two runs, and Hutson laid down a successful sacrifice. Then Oliver, displaying an excellent curveball, fanned the next batter and then got Tyler Whitaker to ground to second on a 3-0 pitch. Usher, playing second, bobbled the ball and threw late to first, allowing Johnson to score. Unfortunately, Central ran itself out of the inning when Daughenbaugh tried to take third on the play and was thrown out.
The top of the seventh saw the Rams at their best and the Eagles at their absolute worst. The first six batters of the inning all reached and scored, five on hits or walks and one on an error by Surry Central. The Eagles eventually got out of the inning, but not before committing two more errors and allowing two more hits and walks to boot.
Dockery and Johnson each singled to start the Central seventh, but Oliver retired the next three batters in order to end the game.
The Golden Eagles have today off before day one of the annual Surry Central Easter Baseball Tournament tentative starts Wednesday. Because of bad weather forecasted for the weekend, the tournament will begin one day sooner than planned. Tentatively, Surry Central will open with North Iredell at 1 p.m.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.