Bears open title defense with a victory

21 for 21.

The Bunker Hill baseball team won its 21st game of the season in the opening round of the 21st annual Catawba County Easter Baseball Classic by defeating Newton-Conover for the third time this season.

The Bears (21-0), who are the defending champions of the tournament and have won 50 of their last 51 games, will face Fred T. Foard today at 5 p.m.

“Newton-Conover has improved a great deal,” said Bunker Hill coach Marty Curtis. “Their pitching has done a good job against us all year. I want to give them some credit. Coach (Corey) Nunley does a great job with them. Those kids work hard. I think most of them are underclassmen, and they will improve.”

Leading the way for the Bears was the play of third basemen Cody Plemmons, who went 3-for-4 with three singles and four RBIs.

“We just wanted to come out here and play ball,” Plemmons said. “We just wanted to come out on the field, jump on them early and get the lead.”
Plemmons scored his first two RBIs of the game on a single in the bottom of the first inning. That plated Cody Ervin and Jeremy Null.

The Bears’ Kyle Davis added another run in the bottom of the inning, as he singled to score Plemmons, which made it a 3-0 lead for the defending champions.

The Bears (21-0) were at it again in the top of the second inning, as they wreaked havoc on Newton-Conover pitcher Chris Aronis, who was pulled up from the junior varsity squad.

First basemen Null added to the Bunker Hill lead in the second inning. He hit a sacrifice fly to deep right field off of Aronis, which scored Cole McGraw. Plemmons added his third RBI of the game on a single in the second inning, which scored Ervin.

Bunker Hill second basemen Davis reached base in the bottom of the sixth on an error by left fielder Michael Woods.

He advanced on another error to third base and later scored on a sacrifice by Tyler Shook.

Null added his second RBI of the game in the sixth. He scored Ervin on a two-out double. Plemmons singled to score Null for his fourth and final RBI of the game, as the Bears advanced to the second round.

“I thought we got some big hits when we really needed them,” Curtis said. “We jumped out to that quick 5-0 lead, but in the second through the sixth, we really didn’t do that much. Again, I give Newton-Conover’s pitching credit. They really settled down and did a much better job.”

Pitcher Jacob Shepherd, who struck out 11 Red Devils in a game played April 15, had another good outing against them. He struck out 10 batters, allowed three hits and walked one batter in seven innings on the mound Monday.

“I thought the story of the game today was Jacob Shepherd,” Curtis said. “We got some runs early, gave him the lead and he really pitched well. Then we were able to break it open in the last few innings.”
Shepherd said Monday’s game was a little different from his last outing against Newton-Conover.

“Tonight, I wasn’t throwing as hard as I usually do,” Shepherd said. “I just focused more on trying to hit my spots.”

Newton-Conover plays St. Stephens in the consolation bracket today at noon.

Curtis said any team in this tournament should be ready for whatever challenge they face.

“When you get into tournament play, any team can win in a one-and-done situation,” Curtis said. “We have to be ready to play and play well, regardless of who we are playing.”