Faith Christian’s hitters picked a great night to have a great night.
The hits weren’t necessarily plentiful for the Patriots, but nearly all were well-timed, and Faith Christian blew open the game early and coasted to an 11-3 victory against rival Rocky Mount Academy on Thursday at Faith Christian.
On the Rocky Mount Academy side, there was no use in dodging what really happened Thursday.
“There are no excuses,” Eagles coach Pat Smith said. “They just beat the snot out of us.”
Faith Christian (6-4, 5-1 Eastern Plains Independent Conference) managed eight hits on the night, but six of them came with runners in scoring position.
Center fielder and lead-off hitter Christian Perry drew three walks and scored off each one of them, catcher Cody Manning went 2-for-3 with three runs and two RBI and third baseman Matthew Sanderford drove in five for the Patriots, who took the first of the two regular-season meetings with Rocky Mount Academy (9-2, 6-1).
Faith Christian hadn’t expected to approach the mercy rule, but it wasn’t complaining about a big lead.
“We’ve been struggling at the plate, so it was good to see us get a little momentum early,” Faith Christian coach Greg Clifton said. “We weren’t trying to get into one of those close games with coach Smith.”
Starting pitcher M.J. Jones had to throw 44 pitches to escape a nightmare first inning for the Eagles.
After a double play killed the Eagles’ chances in the top of the first, they made two errors and let a runner reach first base on a strikeout-turned-passed-ball that would have been the third out. The transgressions led to four runs allowed, none of them earned, for Jones.
Luke Mills hit a line drive off Jones in the second inning for a basehit, and Manning and Matthew Sanderford both hit two-RBI singles later in the inning for an 8-0 Patriots’ lead.
“We were trying to get on the board first and knock them back,” Manning said. “We put ourselves in a good position.”
Jones was chased from the game after 72 pitches and five outs.
It proceeded to turn worse for Rocky Mount Academy.
After going in order in the top half of the third inning, the head umpire warned Smith of an Eagles’ player cursing in the bottom half of the frame. Smith benched him immediately, another problem for the Eagles on a night when not much went right.
“We are just not a good baseball team right now,” Smith said. “We have too many individuals on this team, and they know that. There’s a lot of bickering and grumbling, and that comes from home a lot of the time.”
With offensive help, Faith Christian starter Brandon Sanderford was afforded leeway against the Eagles’ lineup, though it turned out that he didn’t need much. He finished six innings with three hits, three unearned runs and eight strikeouts.
Perry scored off a wild pitch in the third inning to give Faith Christian a 9-0 lead, putting Rocky Mount Academy in jeopardy of succumbing to the five-inning mercy rule.
The Eagles were able to pull back two runs in the fifth thanks to a two-run error and then another in the sixth, again because of an error.
With the lead at 9-3, Matthew Sanderford hit a two-RBI double in the bottom half of the sixth to end any hopes of a comeback.
The loss was Rocky Mount Academy’s first in the conference this season, but Smith said the Eagles’ record, as it stands now, isn’t quite what it seems.
“It’s very misleading,” Smith said. “We haven’t beat nobody. We want to pound on sorry teams and not play good ones.”
Smith said he was unhappy with the way the Eagles played Thursday from every point of view.
Rocky Mount Academy will have a couple days off before its next practice, but Smith said his team has a lot to figure out in the next few weeks, starting with which kids deserve to be on the field.
“We’ll put the best nine (players) out there regardless,” Smith said. “We’ll keep plugging from there.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or firstname.lastname@example.org