After winning three baseball games a season ago, Newton-Conover started its season on the diamond with a victory Wednesday.
Behind a 10-strikeout performance from pitcher Todd Church and two RBIs each from Parker Sigmon, Tyler Sawyer and Caleb Jones, the Red Devils came away with an 8-1 win at home against Freedom.
“We hit the ball, caught the ball and pitched well. Good things happened,” said N-C baseball coach Corey Nunley. “We made one error. I don’t know how many hits we had, but when you put runners on and get them around the bases like we did, good things are going to happen.”
Giving up two hits at the start of the game, Church settled down on the mound to strike out five straight batters in the first and second innings.
“I just found my zone,” Church said. “I came out in the next inning with three strikeouts and shut them down. As a pitcher, you just find your zone. You get on the mound, block everything else out, find your zone and go at it.”
The Red Devils’ offense started out strong, too.
Sigmon and Chris Aronis drove in RBIs in the bottom of the first inning.
Newton-Conover’s lead grew from 2-0 to 5-0 after the fourth inning, behind two RBIs from Sawyer and one from Jones.
While the offense continued to hit, Church continued his solid outing on the mound, including a 1-2-3 top of the fourth where he struck out the side in order.
“My two-seam fastball seemed to be working very well tonight, as well as my curveball,” Church said. “Other than that, just staying mentally focused helped me perform to the best of my ability tonight.”
Church made it through one out in the fifth inning, throwing 89 pitches.
He finished the game with 10 strikeouts, two walks and one earned run.
“I had to pull him (Church) in the sixth inning because I don’t want him to throw too many pitches,” Nunley said. “I want to make sure they have longevity and not put it all into one game. It was hard to pull him because of how well he was pitching, but later on in the year, I will leave him in.”
If not for an RBI-single from Freedom’s Davie Newton in the fifth inning, Church would have thrown a shutout.
Sigmon and Jones added their second RBIs of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning to help pad Church’s lead.
Newton-Conover’s Griffin Sheppard closed out the remaining 1.2 innings on the mound to seal the Red Devils’ victory.
Nunley said the win is a good sign for his team’s success going forward this season, but the Red Devils must remain focused.
“We’ve had some good scrimmages,” he said. “The one thing I keep telling them is that these games are confidence builders, but our season has yet to come. We’ll take this and say we played well, but we’re not where we need to be. When you get complacent, that’s when you get beat and get into bad habits. That’s what I don’t want them to get into.”