Polk’s baseball winning streak ends against tough teams

Published 6:34 pm Thursday, April 3, 2014

Polk’s Konner Scruggs, playing third, is about to throw an Owen batter out at first.

Polk’s Konner Scruggs, playing third, is about to throw an Owen batter out at first.

After compiling a four-game win streak, Polk County High School’s baseball team encountered two tough opponents this week, both of whom defeated the Wolverines
On Wednesday, Christ School, “the best team on our schedule,” said Polk Coach Ty Stott, scored eight runs in the first, and added four in the sixth, defeating the Wolverines, 14-7.  The loss put Polk at 5-7 overall, but still 3-2 in conference play, as Wednesday’s game was non-conference.
“Sandwiched between two conference games, (Owen on Tuesday, and Hendersonville Thursday (results not available at press time), Polk threw lots of arms at CS’s lineup. It was as much a case of bad timing (three games in three days, with the game at Hendersonville moved from Friday to Thursday, in anticipation of Friday thunderstorms) as it was meeting good hitting.
After the Wolverines’ number one pitcher Daniel Painter threw six-plus frames on Tuesday, Stott opened Wednesday’s game with Dequan Gary, who lasted just two-thirds of an inning. Polk managed just seven hits, mostly early, coming back in the home first with five runs, to make a ball game of it, and added two in the fourth.  “We just hit the ball pretty good for a while,” Stott remarked. Like a stray rain shower, however, “It stopped as soon as it started,” he added.
Wes Brady led the Wolverines with two hits, with five others adding one each. Between the first and sixth innings, Polk’s arms held CS to single runs in the third and fifth, but the damage was mostly done, with the visitors pulling away in the sixth.
On Tuesday, Owen outhit the Wolverines in a 6-4 game that featured its share of pivotal points, lost opportunities and what-ifs. Daniel Painter got the start for the Wolverines. He pitched well enough to win, but a couple of pop ups landed just beyond waiting gloves, and Polk batters were unable to take advantage of big scoring opportunities, so Painter’s six-plus innings earned him merely a loss.
Owen’s lineup featured some solid hitting. The War Horses put one runner across the plate in the visitors’ first with a line double to left, a steal of third and a run-scoring groundout. After an inning, Owen maintained its 1-0 lead.
In the second, Painter pitched out of a second-and-third none-out jam, after a bad-hop infield single and a long double to right. Out number three came on a called strike.
Polk put two runners on in the home second, when Wes Brady walked, and took third on Tyler Campbell’s single, but couldn’t bring anyone home.
In the top of the third, Owen’s lead-off batter blasted one of Painter’s offerings over the centerfield fence, and into the trees beyond. That’s all the War Horses managed, as Painter responded by striking out the next batter, and getting pop outs from the following two. Polk trailed just 2-0, and was very much in the game.
The difference in the top and bottom of the fourth was Owen getting a big hit at the right time, and Polk not being able to do so. Placement of the batted ball also favored Owen, when a possibly-catchable high blooper dropped  in for a single just beyond the grasp of Polk fielders beyond first base. A walk put War Horse runners at first and second, and a sacrifice bunt moved each runner up a base. Owen cashed in when the next batter scorched a two-run double to left, and plated its fifth run of the game on a single. A fly-out to Mazilli in center stopped the bleeding, but Owen led, 5-0.
Polk wasted no time getting runners on base. Mazilli ripped a lead-off single between third and short. Wes Brady followed with a walk, and Morgan Groves earned a walk to fill the bases, with no outs. Trevor Arrowood fanned, but Campbell’s long single drove in one run. Konner Scruggs singled, but with bases loaded and just one out, Painter bounced into an inning-ending out-at-home, out-at-first double play, and a chance for a big inning was over.
Painter held Owen scoreless in the fifth. Leading off the home fifth, Bryce Martin, who was frustrated after grounding out twice, changed tactics and laid down a good bunt. Martin, who runs well, would likely have beaten it out under different circumstances, but Owen’s pitcher pounced on the ball, fired to first and gunned out Martin. However, J.D. Edwards grounded a single up the middle, and scampered to second on a pick-off attempt gone bad.
Wes Brady’s long double to left, followed by Morgan Groves’s line single to center closed the gap to 5-4. Even without benefit of another run, Polk worked some magic. Painter surrendered a walk in the visitors’ sixth, but when the runner took too bold a lead, Martin, rifled a strike to Groves, who applied the tag, and the runner was out from here to Raleigh.
Owen scored one more in the seventh, but if not for a fine play by Mazilli, the damage could have been worse. With a War Horse runner on first, the next batter lined a bullet to left center, but Mazilli, racing far to his right, snagged the ball before it touched down. Stott brought in Edwards to finish pitching the seventh.
In the home seventh, Polk could not manage a baserunner. “I know we can play a little better,” assessed Stott after the game. “We’re just not jumping on the fastball. We’ve got to do what other teams do to us.” He was also not pleased with potentially catchable weakly-hit fly balls dropping out of fielders’ reach.
Stott’s basic description of the game was “missed opportunities. It was definitely one we could have won,” he continued. “We’re trying to be a scrappy team. A scrappy team wins that game. He noted that Owen’s pitcher’s fastball clocked around 82-84mph, but “we made it seem he was throwing harder.”
On Monday (April 7), the Wolverines host the Asheville Trailblazers, and on Tuesday, host Madison, which boasts five talented transfer students.

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