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Expectations for typical 2018 3-A Big East Conference high school varsity baseball were on display on the Fike High diamond Tuesday afternoon when the Golden Demons emerged with a 3-2 nail-biter against Southern Nash in the conference opener for both teams.
Fike forged a 3-0 lead after three innings and then relied upon the stout relief pitching of sophomore right-hander Chad Bean to stave off the Firebirds, who scored twice in the top of the fourth inning.
“Big East baseball — a one-run game,” described Southern Nash head baseball coach Todd Brewer.
Fike head coach Buck Edmundson admitted close games have been the norm for his team that is off to a 6-2 start.
“And I am about tired of it,” he added. “We need to score some runs.”
A sidelight that didn’t go unnoticed was the reaction of players from both teams in the first meeting of Fike senior Trevor Mills against his former teammates.
Mills, a right-hander, started on the mound for Fike, labored four innings but picked up the win. He finished the game at shortstop and, at the plate, wound up 0 for 4 when Firebirds center fielder Alex Noland chased down his deep shot for the final out in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Mills contended their’s no animosity between himself and Southern Nash players, but acknowledged: “Some of them have been talking a lot of stuff. I was too anxious. I’ll be a lot calmer next time.”
Observed Noland: “Some of our players feel like he betrayed them, but I don’t feel that way.”
“He was with us last year, and he’s not this year,” Brewer reasoned. “They are baseball players and they know each other.”
Edmundson contended Mills was trying too hard, noting: “I understand there were some feelings, but they’re boys.”
Mills revealed he was ready to abandon the mound after four innings and recommended that his coaches turn to Bean to give the team the best chance of winning.
Bean, with movement on all of his pitches, faced just 10 batters in three innings and worked around Southern Nash first baseman Colton Cruz’s lead-off infield single in the seventh.
“I was just trying to hit my spots,” Bean said of his outing. “I just try to do whatever is best for the team. It’s team first every time he calls on me. We just need to hit the ball a little better and we’ll be all right.”
Edmundson lauded Bean’s consistency, remarking: “He’s calm, cool and steady. No situation is too big for him. He just gets outs and it was time to bring him in. Trevor has been great, but he was not sharp today.”
Fike struck first against Firebirds senior right-hander Leroy Edwards in the bottom of the second. Right fielder Myles Cyrus singled, stole second base and scored on left fielder Joseph Brown’s two-out double.
Southern Nash was victimized by a passed ball, a dropped outfield fly, a hit batsman and two walks in Fike’s two-run third. Third baseman Jaelynn Melton drove in a run with a sacrifice fly that was misplayed and center fielder Justice Lynn singled in the other run.
Catcher Garrett Browder was hit by a pitch for the second time during the game in the inning and, in eight games, has been hit on 13 occasions.
Fike’s Mills worked out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the third but was not as fortunate in the fourth.
A walk, left fielder Jason Montague’s single and catcher’s interference set up Noland’s bases-loaded double. Two Firebirds scored on the hit but Fike second baseman relayed right fielder Cyrus’ throw and cut down the potential tying run at the plate.
Southern Nash also had a runner nailed at the plate in the third, when Leroy Edwards’ smash to center field was turned into an inning-ending double play.
The Firebirds (5-4) got defensive gems from catcher Storm Tyson and Leroy Edwards, again amazing because of his athletic prowess without the use of his left hand.
“I probably got too aggressive,” Brewer admitted. “Getting those two runners thrown out at the plate was my fault. I told the guys that this one’s on me. We were just trying to get on the board and thought we had a good chance to tie the game on the double. In hindsight, take those two outs back and it might have been a different ballgame.”
For the first time this season, the Big East has revamped its schedule, resulting in conference teams playing two games against one another in the same week. The rematch, weather permitting, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Southern Nash.
Brewer anticipates Fike and his Firebirds battling for league supremacy and contended: “If we can get a split, will be in good shape.”
After all, it’s Big East baseball.