Shrock hits walk-off home run to lift Bulldogs past Golden Demons
by Josh Walfish
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Noah Shrock strode to the plate knowing it was going to be his last at-bat at Nash Central’s baseball stadium.
The senior originally thought his last at-bat was going to be a pop fly against Northern Nash on April 21, but when the Bulldogs earned the right to host a Big East tournament game, he found the perfect opportunity to rewrite his history, and he took full advantage.
The senior belted a 3-2 fastball over the left-field fence for his first career home run, but more importantly, it gave Nash Central an improbable 3-1 victory over Wilson Fike in the first round of the conference tournament.
“I thought my last at-bat was going to be that pop up with the bases loaded, so that was going through my mind and I knew I couldn’t do that again,” said Shrock, still in shock about what had just transpired. ”I still don’t know what’s going on all the way. I’m just thankful it was in this ballpark where I’ve put in so much work over the last four years.”
The inning itself got off to a difficult start when Willie Langley’s decision to bring in Drifton Padgett to pinch-hit led to the freshman being thrown out trying to bunt for a hit.
But Colby Carter proudly took a pitch to the hip to get on base and John Michael Kelly legged out an infield single on a chopper that bounced over the pitcher’s head. That brought Shrock to the plate to face Fike’s ace, Brandon Winstead, who came on in relief in the sixth inning.
Shrock said he has not had much success off Winstead in his career, but found a way to fight off some tough pitches. When Winstead finally made a mistake, Shrock pounced and sent it over the wall.
“I don’t have many hits against him, but I stayed in there and fought and he threw me one down the middle and I just hit it,” Shrock said. ”I knew when I hit it, it was gone.”
The home run salvaged a strong start from Cameron Taylor, who allowed only four hits in seven innings. The junior was able to shake off some frustration from an inconsistent strike zone to locate his sweeping curveball to perfection, stunning the Golden Demons’ hitters who were left standing in awe as the pitch broke over the plate.
Taylor struck out seven batters over the course of the night, but it was the one mistake he made that almost cost the Bulldogs.
On Langley’s advice, Taylor tried to attack D.J. Daniels inside to lead off the sixth inning. But Daniels caught up with the pitch and sent a rocket off the foul pole in left field for a solo home run. Taylor said he had faith his team would come through for him at some point, but joked he would have rather not had to sweat it out as much as he did.
“Normally the guys behind me got my back and I know they’re going to get the runs in,” Taylor said. ”They messed me up and waited until the end (Monday), but they got me there.”
Nash Central had a golden chance to tie the game in the sixth inning when Zach Patterson lined a double off the wall in left-centerfield. After Taylor sacrificed him over to third, Langley decided to ride the hot-hitting Chase Minshew, who hit a lazy foul ball that barely stayed in play and fell into the first baseman’s glove. Payton Bass struck out looking and it felt like that might have been the Bulldogs’ one chance.
“To be honest, I might have doubted it there for a minute or two, but I knew we had to play it until the end,” Langley said. ”We’ve done it all year, (former coach Tony Guzzo) always taught me you have to give yourself a chance, and that’s what we did, try to give ourselves a chance ... and it just worked out our way.”
Inclement weather threatened to potentially wreak havoc on the contest with lightning seen far off in the distance behind the baseball field. But the game was never delayed as the teams raced to complete the game before the heavier bands of rain began to fall.
The weather postponed Southern Nash’s game at Wilson Hunt, which will resume tonight at 7 with the Firebirds leading, 4-2, in the bottom of the second. The Bulldogs are still scheduled to face Rocky Mount High tonight in the semifinals.