ELKIN - On a blistering cold night, Alleghany ace Austin Easter stymied the Buckin’ Elks in the season opener for both squads.
Easter threw a complete-game, two-hit gem Monday night while striking out 16 to lead the Trojans to a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Elkin.
“[Easter] threw it well, that’s all you can say. We got to beating it around a little bit at the end and had a chance to win it at the end,” head coach Steve Martin said. “I’m not disappointed in the way that we played; that’s all I can ask for. When’s he’s on the mound, they can beat anybody in the conference.
“Our pitchers threw well. We threw good enough to win the ballgame; we held them to two runs. It was just one of those tough 1A close ballgames,” he added.
With temperatures dipping into the 30s throughout the night, Easter started red-hot. The junior struck out the side in the first two innings, including five-straight looking punch-outs.
The Trojans gave their ace an early 1-0 advantage on back-to-back-to-back singles to left in the second.
After Alleghany pushed their lead out to 2-0 in the fourth, the Elks finally reached base in the home-half of the frame. Jamey Cranford drew a two-out walk to end Easter’s bid at a perfect game.
In the fifth, Elkin drew three-straight walks to start off the inning, putting pressure on the Trojans. But after a strikeout, Ted Shore lined a hard shot to shortstop, where the Elks were doubled-off at second to end the threat.
After five no-hit innings, Seth Haynes broke through against Easter, blooping a double to left to break up the no-hitter.
A wild pitch moved Haynes to third with two outs. Daniel Brinegar followed with a seeing-eye single through the left-side of the infield to bring Elkin within one at 2-1.
After Bubba Bradley struck out two Trojans in the top of the seventh, the Elks came to the plate with a chance to send the game to extra innings.
But Easter put the finishing touches on the gem, punching out two more batters to bring his total to a dominating 16 Ks, as Alleghany held on for the 2-1 victory.
“We made three errors - two of them didn’t hurt, but one cost us a run. And we didn’t execute a bunt or two. We could have won it, but when you’re in a close ballgame, you can’t make mistakes,” Martin explained. “I’m proud of the kids. We just faced a machine tonight.
Cranford picked up the tough-luck loss despite five solid innings. The senior allowed one earned run with eight strikeouts. Bradley pitched two strong innings in relief, striking out four.
The Elks return to the field Friday night against defending regular-season champion Wilkes Central before hosting rival Starmount next Tuesday.
With nine seniors on the roster, Martin believes the team will rebound from the loss heading into two big games.
“I have nine seniors so we have leadership on the team, so I’m expecting pretty good things this year. But these 1A teams are going to be hard to win,” he said. “It’s going to be a battle. We’re going to beat each other to death.”
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or email@example.com.