By John Clark
FAYETTEVILLE – Junior Jake Futrell pitched 6.2 strong innings, and East Bladen’s Eagles battled back from a 6-2 deficit to defeat Richmond 8-6 Tuesday night and advance to the championship game of the Bulldog Easter Invitational Baseball Tournament.
Coach Grant Pait’s Eagles improved to 6-8 and will play tournament host Terry Sanford – a 6-5 extra-inning victor over Pinehurst – in Wednesday’s 7 p.m. title game.
Futrell allowed 6 runs – only 3 earned – on 5 hits and a walk while striking out 9 and retiring 11 of the final 12 batters that he faced. Senior Ty Mathis relieved when Futrell hit the pitch count limit and struck out the only batter he faced to get the save.
The Raiders scored 4 runs in the 2nd inning on a passed 3rd strike, singles by Ashton Phifer and Mason Murray and Ethan Locklear’s 3-run double into the left field corner. Locklear later scored on an error.
The Eagles answered in the home 2nd when Futrell walked, stole a base, advanced on an error and scored when junior Lee Barnes scorched a grounder through the middle and turned it into a ‘hustle’ double. Barnes stole 3rd base and dashed home on a passed ball to whittle the margin to 4-2.
Phifer doubled to left-center field in the Richmond 3rd inning and scored on Murray’s single. Murray stole a base and later scored on an error to push the lead to 6-2.
The Eagles scored 5 runs without a hit in the home half of the 3rd. Junior Tyler Johnson and senior Marlan Davis drew walks, and senior Zamar Lewis was hit by a pitch. Mathis and Futrell drew walks that forced home Johnson and Davis. Lewis scooted home on a wild pitch, and Barnes reached base on an error that plated Mathis. Another wild pitch scored Futrell and put East up 7-6.
Lewis hammered a solo home run over the left field fence in the 4th inning, and Mathis drilled a triple to center field but was left stranded. However, the Eagles led 8-6.
The Eagles turned in a number of defensive highlights over the final 4 innings. Lewis leaped high to snare a line drive to start the 4th inning then grabbed a hard grounder and flipped to Futrell covering to retire the next batter. Shortstop Evan Pait speared a line drive in the 6th, and Barnes took extra bases away from Futrell’s last batter with a fine catch at the right field fence.
Lewis’ home run, Mathis’ triple and Barnes’ double accounted for the Eagle hits. Lewis and Futrell scored 2 runs each, and Mathis, Davis, Barnes and Johnson scored 1 run each. Lewis, Mathis, Futrell and Barnes had 1 RBI each.
Phifer and Murray both batted 2-for-3 and scored 2 runs each to lead the Raiders. Locklear smacked the 3-run double. Murray had an RBI, and Locklear and Isaac Hinshaw scored runs. Phifer, the 2nd of 4 Richmond pitchers, was charged with the loss.
Richmond 042 000 0 — 6-5-3
East Bladen 025 100 x — 8-3-2