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The Fike High varsity baseball team scrapped to an emotion-charged 4-2 victory on the Gilbert Ferrell Field diamond Friday evening in the kind of game that stirrs fans to come back for more.
But spectators will not be coming back— not until at least April 6 as decreed by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association on Thursday because of the coronavirus threat. All NCHSAA activities were suspended as of midnight Friday.
But if teams take the field again in 2020, fans will still remember Friday’s spectacle of 3-A heavyweights that saw the Golden Demons hand Rose, a 3-A member of the 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference, its first loss after five wins.
Surging Fike of the 3-A Big East Conference notched its fourth win against two losses.
The spirited rivalry, evident from the opening pitch, intensified by inning and crested in the seventh. The Demons celebrated when sophomore left fielder Ethan Williams responded with a diving catch of a blast off the bat of Rampants second baseman Caleb May.
Fike, limited to three hits, resorted to “small ball” to break a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the fifth. The Demons scorecd twice with the aid of just one hit.
“We have been playing (Greenville) ever since I got to be a coach here,” Fike head coach Buck Edmundson explained. “They got the best of us a time or two and we got the best of them a time or two. We went over there and got after them and they came over here the next year and got after us. We beat them last year.
“We knew it was going to require intensity. It got a little chippy. They were extremely talkative from the start. It give us a little momentum — I like it!”
Noted legendary Rose head coach Ron Vincent of the rivalry: “I like it! We have been playing these guys since they were 10 years old. They know each other well; they want to beat each other. Fike has a really good team.”
Emotions flared in the top of the seventh.
With Fike leading 4-2, junior Wade Jarman led off with a double for Greenville. Junior catcher Ryan Galaski hit a smash back to the mound. Senior right-hander Cooper Porter, pitching in relief of starting senior right-hander Chad Bean, fielded the baseball and trapped Jarman between second and third.
In the rundown, Jarman was tagged out by Fike center fielder J.D. Graziani. Controversy erupted when the baseball came out of Graziani’s glove.
Fike senior second baseman Mason Lee said Graziani was pushed, and that’s when the ball came out of his glove. The Rampants’ Vincent argued otherwise.
The out stood and Porter, a transfer from Hillsborough Orange, ended the game by inducing a grounder to shortstop and they giving up the smash off May’s bat that the lungingWilliams cleanly gloved at ground level.
Porter notched the save and preserved the win for Bean, who pitched in plenty of traffic through five innings. The Rampants wound up with five hits, including two each fromn sophomore center fielder Michael Allen and Jarman.
Fike threatened against sophomore right-handed Rampants reliever Grayson Myrick, the loser, in the fifth. Porter drew a walk and first baseman Colton Moats, who had two of Fike’s hits, beat out a bunt. Sophomore catcher Noah Joyner sacrificed the base runners to second and third.
Lee fouled off a suicide-squeeze bunt attempt and, with two strikes in the count, twice faked a bunt.
“I was going to bunt if it was a strike,” Lee insisted. “Coach trusts me to get it down.”
Finally, Lee chopped the ball to the second baseman, whose throw to the plate was late — sending Fike ahead 3-2. On the play, Lee alertly scampered toward second, drawing a throw. The throw enabled Moats to score from third.
“I was not thinking a lot about what was happening,” Lee reviewed. “They weren’t even paying attention; they were mad that we had scored the run. I took off for second, and that got us another run and put us up two.”
Batting fifth in the order, Lee finds himself frequently bunting. He sacrificed a runner to second in the third.
“I just try to be competitive,” he reasoned. “I knew I had to get the bunt down. It’s just the situation, with runners on base. I don’t mind bunting, especially when we need to. It worked out tonight.”
“We spend a lot of time handling the bat,” Edmundson said. “We have a little ‘do’ crew. We know we’ve got to utilize it when we’ve got to manufacture runs. We put pressure on the defense and obviously capitalized on some of that stuff.”
Fike capitalized on Moats’ single, three walks and an error to plate two runs in the first.
The Rampants got a run back in the third when Allen doubled and darted home on an error. Rose tied the score in the fifth on Jarman’s infield single, a fielder’s choice, a wild pitch and May’s two-out RBI single.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” Vincent reviewed. “They’ve really got some good pitchers. We made mistakes that can be fixed, but you have to fight those things in close games. But the way we competed, it was a very good game.”
What now for both teams?
“I have never experienced anything like it,” Vincent responded. “I don’t know what’s going on. I hope the people making the decisions know what’s happening.”
“So unfortunate for everybody,” Lee expressed. “Some of us may not play baseball again — and this could be our last game.”
Edmundson’s viewpoint was more optimistic.
“We are gearing up for April 6,” he assured. “That’s what we’re hoping for. We don’t want to see it end. We want to continue to build.
“Our seniors have put so much work into getting ready for this season and, I hope for them, the team gets the opportunity to play again.”
But Friday was special.
“Beautiful weather and a lot of support,” Edmundson observed. “They are a good team and we knew it was going to be high intensity.
“We didn’t advertise this game much, but just said we had a game today. I am really proud of way the community, the fans and the students came out. It was a really good day for everyone showing up.
“They deserved it.”
Score by innings:
Greenville Rose 001 010 0 — 2
Fike 200 020 x — 4
WP-Chad Bean 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 4 SO. LP-Grayson Myrick 4IP, 1 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 SO. S- Cooper Porter 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — Greenville Rose: Michael Allen 2-4, 2B; Wade Jarman 2-4, 2B; Caleb May 1-3, RBI. Fike: Colton Moats 2-3, R; Noah Joyner 1-1.