Brantley Cutler (Maryland-Eastern Shore) hit a pair of home runs, including the game winner in the fifth, and the Tarboro River Bandits (12-5, 27-12) advanced with a 7-6 win over the Wake Forest Fungo (7-10, 15-20) in Thursday night’s Game Three of the Carolina Virginia Collegiate League Tournament at Tarboro’s Municipal Stadium.
“We did what we had to do,” Bandits Head Coach Brandon Matthews said following the game. “(Starting pitcher) Ryan (Andrzejczyk) didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled and did the job.”
The Bandits, as they often have this season, broke fast from the game with Thomas Fox (Bridgewater) striking out to lead off, but reaching first safely when the catcher was unable to handle the pitch.
Then, Kasey Caras (Messiah) launched a homer to right field that drove in Fox and made the score 2-0.
Zack Whitacre (Potomac State) then reached on a fielding error by the shortstop and came around to score on a pair of passed balls and a dribbler toward the pitcher’s mound by Trevon Smith (Glenville State) that he turned into an infield hit.
The Bandits managed to load the bases before Wake Forest got out of the inning, scoring the three runs.
In the second, Wake Forest broke through on a leadoff home run to left by Bobby Dixon, but Andrzejczyk (Union College) allowed just one runner after that to reach base before getting out of the inning.
Fox led off the second after the Bandits batted around in the first and reached safely on a throwing error by the third baseman, taking second on the overthrow at first.
Fox moved over to third when Caras grounded out to second and scored on a passed ball — one of five charged to catcher Josh Harvey (UNC-Wilmington).
The Fungo chased Andrzejczyk in the third, starting with a solo home run to third by Harvey.
The Fungo then got to Andrzejczyk for five straight singles to plate three runs and place runners on second and third when Matthews brought in Eric Miles (Presbyterian) in relief.
Miles struck out the next two batters to end the inning with Wake Forest on top, 5-4.
In the bottom of the third, Gage Riddick (Eastern Mennonite) walked and was driven in when Cutler’s first home run sailed over the scoreboard in left to put the Bandits back on top, 6-5.
Miles shut the Fungo down in the fourth before giving up a leadoff homer to Justin Bowers to start the fifth and tie the game at 6-6.
In the fifth, Cutler launched his second blast — this one to center — and put the Bandits back on top.
Matthews then gave the ball to Jordan Leggett (Pitt CC) in the sixth and Troy Britts (Central Florida) in the seventh and, counting Miles’ last two outs in the fifth, the Bandits staff retired the game’s last eight batters in a row.
“Our pitchers did a great job for us,” Matthews said. “They gave up a couple of home runs that would have been long outs in another ballpark and most of the hits they allowed were just streakers.”
The Bandits were outhit, 9-4, but made the most of their opportunities, including five passed balls, two errors and six walks.
Tarboro pitchers recorded eight strikes and only issued two walks while the defense backed them up with errorless ball and one double play.
Friday’s schedule — In today’s 5 p.m. game, the winner of the Fungo-Carolina Thunder game that closed out Thursday’s schedule will meet the Carolina Pirates in an elimination game. The second game matches top-seed Fuquay-Varina against Tarboro. Matthews said he planned to start Tarboro native Trey Jernigan (UNC-Asheville) against the defending champion Twins.