Northern Nash coach Leonard Allen is looking for a solid No. 8 hitter in the Knights’ lineup.
Well, at least he was looking.
The Knights might have found a full-time eight hitter after Alex Cooke, at the plate for only the fifth time all season, swatted a fourth-inning grand slam way over the right field fence Tuesday, giving pitcher Derrick Carter all the help he needed in the Knights’ 5-3 victory against Roanoke Rapids at Northern Nash High School.
“We were looking for an eight-hole hitter, and we went with (Cooke) based on his B.P. (Monday),” Allen said. Then he smiled. “The move paid off, huh?”
Northern Nash (2-2) fell behind, 1-0, in the top of the first due to two infield errors, but Carter helped himself with a two-out, full-count RBI single to center in the second inning to tie the game at one.
Carter held Roanoke Rapids (2-2) in the third and fourth, then Chad Nelms singled with one out in the Knights’ half of the fourth. Jacob Green and Carter followed Nelms with singles, loading the bases for Cooke.
The game was Cooke’s second start of the season, and he went to the plate hoping to put the ball in play. On a low, 0-1 fastball, he drilled the ball over the right field fence to give the Knights a 5-1 lead.
“That was my first grand slam. I haven’t even hit a home run since Little League,” said Cooke, now a junior. “It was my last year of Little League. I think I was 10 or 11.”
After a first inning of trouble, Carter had a relatively carefree outing, his second against Roanoke Rapids, even though his wasn’t at his sharpest.
He pitched around five hits, keeping the Yellowjackets to 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
Carter didn’t walk a batter until the final one he faced with one out in the seventh.
Roanoke Rapids scored on a wild pitch and an RBI single in the seventh, but Jacob Green was able to see out the save.
Carter earned the victory for his 6 1⁄3 innings of work, in which he did not allow an earned run and struck out 10 batters.
“I just knew the batters better, really,” Carter said. “They helped me more than anything, I guess.”
Allen said it was the type of efficient start Northern Nash wants from its pitchers.
“He mixed up his pitches pretty well and stayed ahead in the count, ahead of the hitter,” Allen said. “He wasn’t falling behind. He did a very good job of staying ahead of all the hitters.”
Ryan Williams took the loss for Roanoke Rapids, allowing five earned runs on five hits in four innings of work.
Carter finished 2-for-3 with an RBI, a run and stolen base for the Knights.
Northern Nash finished 3-for-7 with five RBI and a walk with runners in scoring position.
After losing a seventh-inning lead in a recent game, Allen said he liked what he saw Tuesday.
“I didn’t see a lot of quit in them,” Allen said. “Last week, we went to Wake Forest and had a 5-3 lead going into the seventh, a very similar situation (to Tuesday), and it was base hit, base hit, and all of the sudden you kind of saw that deflated look. (Tuesday), I saw a little bit more confidence in them in that seventh inning, and we have to keep that and keep moving forward.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or firstname.lastname@example.org