MORGANTON — The Avery baseball team ventured off the mountain to Patton High School on Monday, March 2, to open its 2020 campaign in a non-conference matchup with the Panthers. The teams played a nip-and-tuck affair through the game’s first three innings, but a 13-run fourth inning by the home team sank Avery into a hole it was unable to climb out from in a 16-6 Patton win that was called after four and a half innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.
Avery opened the game with an early lead as first baseman Noah Rosato blasted a solo home run to left centerfield to put the Big Red on the scoreboard. Patton answered in the bottom of the first by manufacturing its first run thanks to a walk, stolen base, error and sacrifice fly to tie the game at 1-1.
Patton added a pair of runs in the bottom of the second inning, as a hit batsman and multiple fielding errors, sandwiched by a single to left field propelled the Panthers to a 3-1 advantage.
Patton retired the Vikings by striking out the side in the top of the third inning, but Avery starter Austin Waldroop retired the Panthers without allowing a run in the bottom of the inning to keep the game a two-run contest.
A double play quelled a rally for the Vikings in the top of the fourth inning, while the Panthers pounded the baseball in the bottom half, sending 17 batters to the plate and scoring 13 times on seven hits. Avery was unable to help its own cause during the rally, as Vikings pitchers combined to walk three batters and have three hit batsmen in the inning. By inning’s end, the Panthers held a 16-1 lead.
Needing to score at least six runs to prolong the contest, Avery did its best to scrap back into contention in the top of the fifth inning. Starting the frame with a pair of Patton errors, both leadoff hitter Nick Banks and teammate Lucas Andrews reached base safely. Designated hitter Levi Andrews then plated both players with a single to left field. Two batters later Aiden Cooke reached on a fielder’s choice, while Ty Smith followed with an RBI single to center, scoring Andrews to narrow the margin to 16-4. A Patton error on a Rosato ground ball to third base allowed both Cooke and Smith to cross home plate for a 16-6 game. Waldroop was unable to keep the rally alive and extend the game, however, as a strikeout closed out the matchup.
Patton starting pitcher Christian White earned the win, allowing five runs on two hits over four innings while striking out eight batters. Waldroop pitched 3.1 innings in the start for the Big Red, surrendering only three hits while striking out four hitters. Banks and Chandler Berry finished up in relief, each pitching one-third of an inning.
Avery travels to Cloudland for a non-conference game on Wednesday, March 11, then ventures to Burnsville on Friday, March 13, for a matchup with conference foe Mountain Heritage.