In the playoffs, even the smallest mistakes can become amplified.
Third-seeded Rocky Mount Academy had a chance to rip open a pitching-dominated NCISAA 2-A playoffs quarterfinal in the third inning, but one missed signal on the basepaths stalled a potential game-tilting rally.
Eventually, No. 6 seed Davidson Day created a rally of its own, and the Patriots’ big inning was just a little better than the Eagles’ big inning, the difference between the two sides in a 4-3 Davidson Day victory Friday at Rocky Mount Academy.
“We had our opportunities, and we made a bad baserunning blunder there,” Rocky Mount Academy coach Pat Smith said. “It could’ve been our big inning, so to speak, but give them credit for coming back. They got the big hits when they needed them. We didn’t.”
After two dominant innings by Davidson Day starter Lamar Briggs, Rocky Mount Academy (17-3) created space in the third inning.
Colin Richardson drew a walk to start the inning, and Justin Hicks and Linwood Jones both reached base on sacrifice bunts that Briggs couldn’t field cleanly.
With the bases loaded and nobody out, Trey Medlin singled to make the score 1-0. In the same circumstance, Kyle Holland belted a two-RBI double to right-center field, scoring Hicks and Jones.
As Holland rounded second, though, he thought Medlin was going home and took off for third. Medlin had been stopped halfway up the line, however, and with one base open for two Eagles runners, Davidson Day (8-13) was able to tag both of them out in a bizarre double play.
“Anytime you got somebody on the hook, you got to pull ’em in,” Smith said. “I don’t know what would’ve happened.
“Who knows? But I do know we would have been up, 3-0, with (runners on) second and third and nobody out. That’s a lot different than two outs and nobody on.”
Briggs worked his way out of the inning, a softened blow considering what might have been.
On the other side, Brandon Griffin kept the Patriots scoreless through five. Eleven of Griffin’s first 15 outs came in the air, and Davidson Day was beginning to grow unsure if its inning would materialize.
Will Reid crushed a ball in the first inning, albeit right at Justin Hicks, the Rocky Mount Academy left fielder. Briggs nearly missed a home run in the third inning, then Alex Anstead crushed a ball in the fifth, also right to the glove of Justin Hicks.
“We’re in the sixth inning, and we’re looking at each other going, ‘We’re hitting the ball hard, but nothing’s falling,’” Davidson Day coach Matt Neville said. “You couldn’t even get frustrated with that. The guys were seeing good pitches and hitting them right at people.”
The dam finally broke in the top of the sixth.
Briggs led off the inning by being hit by a pitch, and three different Patriots came through with RBI hits. Davidson Day batted around – chasing Griffin in the process – and took a 4-3 lead with six outs to play.
Rocky Mount Academy hasn’t been a powerful hitting team this season, but the Eagles created a chance in the bottom half of the inning.
Two walks and a single, all with two outs, loaded the bases, but all three Eagles were stranded on the basepaths. The Eagles couldn’t score on the Jackson State-bound Briggs in the seventh, either.
“We didn’t come out ready to hit, I don’t think,” Rocky Mount Academy catcher Allen Hicks said. “We just struggled all season hitting. That (has) been one of our weaknesses the whole year.”
None of the runs Briggs allowed were earned.
The Patriots will advance to the semifinals, where they will play No. 2 seed Harrells Academy. A season after making the state championship series, the Eagles’ year is finished two rounds short of where they hoped it would be this season.
“We had a great season,” Allen Hicks said. “Any time you get in the playoffs, people are going to be gunning for you, especially if you have a high seed like we did, a three seed.
“It’s just disappointing. It’s really disappointing.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz @rmtelegram.com