St. Stephens couldn’t have scripted a better ending.
Trailing 6-0 to Newton-Conover, the Indians’ baseball team rallied to score 12 runs, including a dramatic two-run homer by center fielder Phillip Carroll in the sixth inning. The Indians (6-13) bounced back from a 7-2 loss Monday to Hickory.
“We came out flat in the first side out,” said Indians’ coach Chip Watts. “Our kids responded well. We knew we had to chip at it a little bit at a time, and we wouldn’t get it all back in one inning. Our kids stayed with the course and with the game plan.”
St. Stephens trailed by six runs heading into the bottom of the third inning. The Red Devils (3-18) got off to a 1-0 lead behind an RBI single from first basemen Matt Harrell. He plated catcher Parker Sigmon on the hit.
Five more runs were scored by Newton-Conover in the top of the third. Pitcher Todd Church, third basemen Jason Lamb and Sigmon all had an RBI each in the inning.
“We knew we hadn’t been through our line-up the second time through,” Carroll said. “We weren’t worried. I just think we had to shut the door and not let them score anymore. When we were down 6-0, coach told us to get through the inning and get them in the next inning. We just kept chipping away at it.”
Trailing in the game, the Indians cut into their deficit inning by inning at the lead. Three runs were scored by St. Stephens in the bottom of the third inning. Hoyle got his first RBI of the game on a sacrifice fly to center field, which scored Logan Gray.
One batter later, a two-RBI double from the bat of right fielder Ricky Miller cut the deficit in half, 6-3, after three innings.
“We got some key hits at some key times,” Watts said. “I thought Phillip Carroll stepped up huge for us today. I thought he has hit the ball really well in the tournament. Jacob Hoyle had another big hit, too. I felt like we had a good offensive day at the plate.”
After a scoreless fourth inning for both teams, the Indians cut the lead to one run with a two-RBI home run from Hoyle.
“My hitting the first half of the season was rough,” Hoyle said. “After our game against South Caldwell and through the rest of the second half, I’ve been hitting the ball a lot harder. I knew, especially on this pitcher today, I had to stay back and get my hands moving. If I stuck to fundamentals, I knew good things were going to happen.”
While the Indians’ offense was scoring, the Red Devils struggled. In the final four innings of the game, they only had one hit and struck out three times.
After Gray reached on a controversial single, Carroll made his one hit in the game count. In a hit-and-run situation called by coach Chip Watts, Carroll swung for the fences and sent the ball sailing over the right field wall for a two-run homer. That gave the Indians the 7-6 lead.
“I think I’ve hit the ball hard in the tournament, but I’ve had nothing to show for it,” Carroll said. “I finally got that home run. It felt good to see my teammates at the plate. It helped get us on the board.”
Watts said that the skills Carroll has on the diamond bar in comparison to what he has done for the Indians’ in practice and off the field.
“Phillip is a special kid on and off the field,” Watts said. “He is kid with the work ethic to come to the field every day and tries to get better. We had a hit-and-run on for that plate, so he had to swing regardless. He got his hands extended and did a great job of finding the ball. I’ve really been proud of the way he has played, but more proud of what he has done off the field.”
The Indians exploded in the inning and scored seven runs on five hits and had three batters walked on their way to the victory.
Hoyle finished the game 3-for-4 with a single, triple and home run. He drove in four RBIs. Carroll was 1-for-5 with two RBIs.
Leading Newton-Conover were Sigmon, Harrell, Church and Lamb, who had one RBI each.