SMITHFIELD — When push came to shove, Corinth Holders demonstrated it could push through disappointment Friday night.
After being denied in a bases-loaded, nobody out situation, the Pirates responded one inning later with timely hitting, shoving across three fourth-inning runs en route to a 5-1, Two Rivers 3A Conference victory over Smithfield-Selma.
The win pushed the Pirates to 6-5 overall, but more importantly, into at least a share of second place in the Two Rivers with county rival South Johnston at 3-1. Smithfield-Selma, which opened the night with an offensive flurry that netted the Spartans their only run and lead of the night, slipped to 3-7, 0-4.
Trailing 1-0 entering the top half of the third inning, the Pirates loaded the bases against Spartans starting pitcher Dylan Brown on an error, a hit batter and a walk.
Spartans coach David Lawhorn wasted little time in going to his bullpen, bringing in right-handed reliever Chris Parker, who responded to the challenge with a strikeout of Nick Peach. Parker then enticed Jake Lewis to rap into a tailor-made double play, getting the Spartans out of the jam with the lead intact.
In previous games this season, that type of denial would have put an enormous dent in the Pirates’ pysche. Not this night. Instead of being intimidated by their failure to push across at least the equalizing run in the third, the Pirates were infuriated, responding with the three-run rally in the fourth.
“We have to step into the batter’s box ready to hit the ball,” said Pirates coach Adam Weaver. “Parker froze us with a good strikeout pitch, and Lewis hit the ball well, only it was at somebody. That’s baseball. We just had to push through that and show it didn’t discourage us at all.”
And push they did. Jon Messina started the rally with a one-out double to left, moving to third on a grounder by Cameron Brewer and scoring on a misplay of Mason Cooper’s two-out grounder up the third base line.
Cooper stole second and scored on Bobby Beare’s single to right. Beare then duplicated Cooper’s effort, stealing second and scoring on a single to center by Oakley Wallrich.
“We have young kids on this team,” Weaver said. “And they are being put in situations where they have to come through for us. The ball was bouncing our way tonight.”
The ball didn’t bounce the Spartans’ way after the first, in which they put together a lead off double by Francil Ramirez and a two-out single by Chris Simonson for the 1-0 lead. Charlie Horne also singled in the inning to keep the rally going, but Peach recovered to retire the side.
After that, the story was pitching — mainly by Peach for the Pirates, retiring 12 of the next 14 batters he faced before being lifted in the sixth inning after Parker’s lead-off double. Peach surrendered five hits on the night, and had thrown only 65 pitches before being lifted by Weaver. Peach’s night came to an end with four strikeouts, one walk and one hit batter.
But what endeared him to Weaver, and certainly not the Spartans was his ability to get ahead early in the count on 16 of the first 19 batters he faced.
“Peach did a real good job of throwing strikes for five-plus innings,” Weaver said.
Lawhorn agreed: “He pitched a heck of a game, and kept us guessing most of the night.”
But Lawhorn felt his staff pitched well also.
“We just had a inning where we made a pair of defensive mistakes,” he said, “and they got the key hits, which we weren’t able to tonight.”
Not only were the Spartan bats ineffective against Peach after a second-inning single; they couldn’t touch Lewis, who was called on after Parker’s double. Lewis walked one and fanned three batters in two innings of scoreless relief.
Corinth Holders added a pair of insurance runs in the seventh on singles by Wallrich and Tyler Barritt, a wild pitch and a double by Lewis.
Wallrich enjoyed a 2-for-2 night at the plate while Lewis and Messina were 2-for-4.