The Nation Ford Falcons baseball team has won nine games in a row. Most of them, you would say that they had the game well in hand in the early stages.
Wednesday night’s game at Northwestern was no different. The Trojans, who are having what would be considered a “down” year, allowed six runs to cross the plate in the first two innings to get behind 6-0. The Falcons looked like they would be in cruise control against the 2017 5A state champions, scoring in many different ways.
Starting pitcher Jeffery Maidhof, who ran his record to a perfect 6-0 Wednesday night, started the scoring for the Falcons with a one-out single to right field in the first inning, scoring second baseman Xavier Cumbee. On the very next play, Trojans’ shortstop Ben Venables had difficulty on a Justin Lehman ground ball; the error allowing Bradley Bott to score. The scoring was wrapped up when third baseman Steven Johnson grounded out, allowing courtesy runner Brandon Stancil to score. In the second inning, shortstop Noah Petty walked, scoring first baseman Mitch Kyzer, and then two Will Rushing wild pitches pushed two more Falcons across to complete the scoring on the night for Nation Ford.
Just when you thought the Trojans were dead, incoming was a furious rally by the home team. In previous games against Fort Mill and Rock Hill, Northwestern mounted comebacks, but fell just short. The way the team was “in the game” in the latter stages, you could tell they weren’t finished yet.
In the seventh inning, with Falcons’ ace pitcher Jeffery Maidhof finished for the evening, the bullpen was asked to take care of the remaining Trojans. Noah Petty, who came in for injured Tyler Causey in the second inning, came on in the sixth inning and gave up one walk, struck out one and basically had an easy inning. In the seventh, left hander Hudson Mankin came on to finish off the game. Although Mankin walked two of the first four batters he faced, he recorded two outs, including a strikeout of the Trojans’ cleanup hitter and starting pitcher Will Rushing. After two more walks, the Trojans closed to within three runs at 6-3. In came another relief pitcher for the Falcons, this time it was senior Matthew Bieser. Bieser walked designated Wil Joyner to load the bases.
Things were getting a little tense on the Falcons side of the field. Bieser then faced right fielder Reed Garland, who had been hitless in three tries up until this point. Garland delivered a two-out bases loaded double just past the outstretched arms of left fielder Keith Cooke III, and that’s when it looked like the Trojans would tie the game.
Catcher Ryan Brown and third baseman Dustin Noller scored and they were waving in Venables for the tying run. Cooke quickly grabbed the ball, fired it to then-shortstop Maidhof, who delivered a strike to catcher Justin Lehman at the plate to tag Venables out for the end of the game. The Falcons fans gasped a sigh of relief. Bieser picked up the save for Maidhof and the Falcons had won their ninth straight, and seventh in the Region.
The series picks up again on Thursday at Nation Ford, where there will be a doubleheader beginning at 5:15 pm. Originally the game was scheduled for 5:30 with another home game on Friday at 5:30, but incoming rain forced the teams into a doubleheader on Thursday. Nation Ford improves to 14-5 on the season, 8-2 in Region 3-5A where they clinched second place. Northwestern drops to 7-11, and 4-6 in Region 3-5A play.
Notes: Shortstop Tyler Causey gave the Falcons a scare when he had to come out of the game in the second inning due to illness. The North Carolina signee is expected to be back in the lineup on Thursday night. Keith Cooke, III, the Falcons’ left fielder, came across a rare feat on Wednesday night when he delivered three outfield assists in the game. Two of them involved relays to Jeffery Maidhof. The Major League record for one game is four.
From Friday April 5, 2019: Bradley Bott worked four innings, allowing only two runs and two hits while striking out eight to lead Nation Ford to an 11-2 victory over Rock Hill on Friday night. Shortstop Tyler Causey paced the Falcons’ offense, going three-for-five with a double and an RBI. Causey also scored three times for the Falcons. Second baseman Xavier Cumbee also had two hits for the winners, who swept the season series with the Bearcats, 3-0.
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