By John Clark
FAYETTEVILLE – Senior Evan Pait pitched a 3-hitter and struck out 14 batters to lead East Bladen to an 11-3 victory over Western Harnett Monday night in the opening round of the Bulldog Easter Invitational Baseball Tournament at Terry Sanford High School.
East Bladen improves to 5-8 and advances to a semi-final game against Richmond – a 6-5 winner over Wayne Country Day in their opening round game. The Eagles vs. Richmond game will be Tuesday at 7 p.m.
“Evan was on his game tonight. He threw the ball well,” said East Bladen Coach Grant Pait. “We hit the ball tonight.”
Evan Pait struck out 10 of the final 12 batters that he faced, walked only 2 batters in the game, and didn’t allow a hit over the final 4 innings. Only 2 of the Western Harnett runs were earned.
East Bladen jumped ahead with 4 runs in the 1st inning. Pait laced a single to right, senior Zamar Lewis was hit by a pitch, and senior Ty Mathis walked.
Junior Jake Futrell’s fielder’s choice to 2nd base was thrown wildly to the plate allowing Darius Williamson, the courtesy runner for Pait, and Lewis to score. Senior Weston Hatcher raked a single through the left side that scored Mathis and Futrell for a 4-0 East lead.
The Harnett Eagles answered with 2 runs in the bottom of the first. Seth McLamb singled, pitcher Jackson Rosser walked, and Sam Kuzinski advanced both runners with a sacrifice bunt. Senior Shane Sweeney dotted the right field line with a single that scored both runners.
Lewis launched a towering home run over the right-center field fence in the 3rd inning to pad the East lead to 5-2.
An error and a 2-out Sweeney single produced a Western run in the home half of the third and trimmed the margin to 5-3.
Hatcher pounded a long drive to center field to start the 4th inning that sailed off the tip of the fielder’s glove. Hatcher advanced on a wild pitch and dashed home to push the lead to 6-3 when senior Coleman Tatum smashed a fielder’s choice off Rosser.
Lewis ricocheted an infield hit off the Western pitcher to start the 5th inning. Futrell walked, and senior Garrison Tatum dropped a double just inside the left field line that scored Lewis. Hatcher’s pop fly to short right field was dropped allowing Futrell and Na’Toren Corbett, the courtesy runner for Garrison Tatum, to score and stretch the lead to 9-3.
Lewis was hit by a pitch to begin the 7th inning and Mathis roped a hit to left field that sent Lewis to 3rd base. Junior Lee Barnes drove in Lewis with a fielder’s choice, and junior Kalec Autry poled a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Mathis to up the count to 11-3.
Lewis batted 2-for-2 with the homer, was twice hit by pitches and scored 4 runs. Hatcher finished 2-for-3 with a double, 2 RBIs and a run scored. Garrison Tatum doubled, and Pait, Mathis and junior Tyler Johnson added 1 hit each.
Mathis and Futrell scored 2 runs each. Corbett and Williamson scored runs. Lewis, Futrell, Coleman Tatum, Barnes and Autry had 1 RBI each.
Sweeney batted 2-for-3 to lead the Western Harnett hitters. Rosser went the distance on the mound and allowed 11 runs – 6 earned- on 8 hits, 3 hit batters and 2 walks while striking out 5.
East Bladen 401 130 2 — 11-8-1
Western Harnett 201 000 0 — 3-3-2