Hardy slam powers HPCA past Westchester
Hardly fazed by a first-inning deficit, the High Point Christian Academy baseball team was ready offensively in the early innings.
The Cougars scored all nine of their runs in the first two innings — including seven in the second, keyed by Kennedy Hardy’s grand slam — to beat crosstown rival Westchester Country Day School 9-3 in a meeting of two of the state’s top NCISAA teams Tuesday at Oak View Baptist Church.
“We’ve been talking about having good at-bats, making sure we’re hitting strikes, being disciplined with our approach,” High Point Christian coach Corey Gesell said. “The guys are working hard to do that. And when you do that, obviously that helps us be successful.”
After both teams scored twice in the first inning, the Cougars (8-2), ranked No. 2 in the 3A, sent 11 batters to the plate in the second. With no outs and runners in scoring position, Luke Gesell, Boston New and Levi Gesell drove in runs on consecutive at-bats to give HPCA a 5-2 lead.
Then, with two outs and the bases loaded, Hardy crushed his first home run of the season over the fence in right-center field to break open the game, giving the Cougars a 9-2 lead after two solid offensive innings in which they tallied four extra-base hits — three doubles and a home run.
“At first we seemed kind of soft,” said Hardy, a sophomore. “But after the first inning, when we saw them get some hits, we kind of turned it on and just went off. It was motivation. We really didn’t want to lose to them. They’re one of our biggest rivals and always have been.
“I just didn’t want to hit one off the ends of my hands again like I did my first at-bat,” he said of his first varsity grand slam, as he blew into his hands in the cold afternoon wind. “I wasn’t trying to hit one. I was just swinging back-side and trying to get some runners in.”
After that, however, the Wildcats (7-2), the defending state champions and ranked No. 1 in the 2A, kept them at bay. They didn’t allow a baserunner over the final four innings, but they couldn’t overcome their struggles at the plate that hampered their offensive chances.
Westchester, after scoring two runs in the first inning, did score one run in the fifth on back-to-back doubles by Markel Johnson and Myles Sowell, who went 4 for 4 for the game. But that was far from what it needed in the final innings to challenge High Point Christian.
“Just discipline. We lost our plate discipline,” Wildcats coach Joey Hammond said. “Give Ben (White) credit. He threw the ball over the plate, didn’t give us any free bases and did what he does, which is let us get ourselves out. Our aggressiveness played against us.”
Levi Gesell had two hits and an RBI while Jarred Bergsma had a two-run double in the first for the Cougars, who host Southern Alamance, ranked No. 3 in the NCHSAA 4A, on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. Starting pitcher Ben White (3-2) picked up win, striking out six while walking none in five innings.
Donnie Sellers and Sowell each had an RBI for Westchester, which which plays two games Saturday in the North Davidson Showcase, while Adam Kirkman added two hits. Starting pitcher Tyler Marion (4-1) took the loss, allowing seven hits and one walk while striking out four in five innings.