Meridian Star

April 25, 2014

Early hole too much as Northeast drops playoff opener to North Pike

By Drew Kerekes \ The Meridian Star
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — After loading the bases in the top of the first inning, Northeast Lauderdale High School was able to escape a no-out jam without giving up a run to North Pike High School.

It was all downhill from there for the Trojans.

The Jaguars jumped out to an early lead in the second inning and never looked back as they blanked Northeast, 11-0, Thursday evening in the first round of the MHSAA Class 4A baseball playoffs.

Trojan starter Landon Keller again loaded the bases with no outs then walked in two runs, prompting head coach Josh Snider to pull his starter in favor of Vaughn Bennett, who pitched the final six innings of the game for Northeast. Bennett would get out of the jam, giving up just one sacrifice fly as the Jaguars to a 3-0 lead.

“You come out, throw balls, walk people and give them free bases, that kind of sets the tempo,” Snider said. “We couldn’t throw strikes (early), and that’s what’s been so good for us all year.”

North Pike made it 5-0 in the top of the third when LaDarrius Coney hit a two-run home run over the left field wall.

Northeast, meanwhile, couldn’t get anything going offensively against Jaguars starter Dallas Smith. The southpaw went the distance for North Pike, giving up no runs on three hits with two strikeouts and one hit batter.

“I thought he threw a great game,” North Pike head coach George Lott said. “He located his pitches well and kept them off balance just enough. He had several balls incapped, and he threw strikes, which is the name of the game.”

Snider said his team wasn’t able to adjust to Smith’s pitching.

“We couldn’t wait on it,” Snider said. “I give credit to (Smith). He kept the ball low and away, and we pulled off, pulled off all night and couldn’t make the adjustment.”

The floodgates finally opened in the top of the seventh for North Pike as the Jaguars added six more runs off three RBI singles, an RBI groundout and a throwing error by Northeast that allowed two to come home.

“I thought we played well in spurts,” Lott said of his team’s hitting. “We left the bases loaded in the first inning without anyone out and didn’t score a run. We had a couple of big innings and hit the ball decently in those innings. (Today), hopefully, we can put seven innings together as far as swinging the bat.”

The rough seventh inning put a damper on an otherwise strong outing for Bennett. He pitched six innings, giving up eight runs — five earned — on five hits and two walks. He also had two strikeouts.

“This is only his second outing of the year,” Snider said. “He had some elbow issues, and we finally got him back. I couldn’t ask for anything better. He came in, threw strikes and competed his butt off, and that’s all we ask — compete and pound the zone.”

Keller took the loss, going one inning and surrendering three runs on one hit and six walks. He also struck out one and hit a batter.

Northeast (14-11-1) will face North Pike (16-6) again at 6 p.m. today on the road in Game 2 of their first-round series.