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Eagles escape Chopticon with fifth straight win

By JAMES A. McCRAY III

Staff writerNorth Point Eagles senior Gunnar Staples was at the plate down to his last strike.

With two strikes and already two outs in the top half of the seventh inning at Chopticon on Wednesday afternoon, one more strike or out would have ended the contest as Chopticon led 3-2.

As the pitch came home, Staples made contact and sent a slow-rolling groundball toward first base.

As Chopticon pitcher Sam Askey ran to beat Staples to the bag, what would have been a bang-bang play at first turned into a one-run lead for the Eagles.

A throwing error allowed Staples’ teammates, Austin Bentley and Mikey Escanilla, to cross the plate and give the Eagles a 4-3 lead, Escanilla being the go-ahead run.

A one-two-three inning from North Point pitcher Nick Huff in the bottom half of the inning secured the come-from-behind victory for the Eagles, the fifth-straight victory for North Point and its first SMAC win.

“I was in the same situation against McDonough and I kind of wanted redemption,” Staples said of being down to the game’s final strike. “I grounded into a double play [against McDonough].”

That 4-3 nonconference loss to McDonough was North Point’s season-opener and the only time this year the Eagles have been on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

On the play against Chopticon, Staples added, “I was hoping that I could beat it out. That’s all I was thinking, just run hard.”

Escanilla, who was on second before the play developed, crossed the plate to cheers from his team’s dugout knowing that he had just put the Eagles ahead for the first time since the top half of the first.

“Coach flashed me two outs and told me that I was rolling on anything,” Escanilla said, “so I saw the ball was in play and I didn’t stop running until I crossed home.”

North Point head coach Bill Chichester was the coach at third base who decided to send Escanilla home.

“They put the ball in play and when you put the ball in play, things can happen,” Chichester said. “I don’t know if he would have beaten it out or not [at first], but it was close. I was glad to see the ball get away and Mikey just never stopped running from second.”

Huff was charged with earning the last three outs for the Eagles after first stepping on the mound in relief to start the sixth inning.

Huff also had a RBI double in the third inning that put the score at 3-2, cutting Chopticon’s lead in half.

“It was a bit exciting to come through and come back and win like that,” Huff said. “We wish we could have done it another way, but it’s exciting when you do it that way.”

Chichester was pleased with his team’s character in the victory but added much of that stemmed from Huff.

“Nick came in and hit the ball really well and came in and shut them down at the end,” Chichester added. “His performance from the mound was good but his leadership was outstanding today. He was just up for the entire game and his leadership ability carried over offensively and defensively.”

The Eagles (5-1, 1-0 SMAC) took a 1-0 lead in the first after an error allowed a run to cross home.

After Huff’s RBI double combined with the two runs in the seventh accounted for North Point’s runs.

North Point will be off until Saturday when it will make a return trip to Chopticon for the Braves Invitational.

Chopticon (3-3, 1-1) came in winners of three-straight contests and fell just short of its fourth.

“Well, it’s a play we work on in practice all of the time,” Chopticon head coach Ricky Ryce said of the game-deciding play. “I think the pitcher got there late, number one, and our first baseman couldn’t make up his mind whether he was going to throw it overhand or underhand and then the throw ended up being behind him.”

Despite a RBI triple from Alex Murphy and a solo home run from Michael Wroble, Ryce admitted that a major key in the result was hitting.

“We didn’t hit well today, and we were chasing too many pitches out of the strike zone,” Ryce said. “It’s killing us. We get two or more insurance runs, those two [North Point] runs don’t mean anything. … We just need to do a better job of hitting.”

jmccray@somdnews.com

North Point 4, Chopticon 3

North Point 101 000 2 4 7 1

Chopticon 210 000 0 3 4 3

WP Huff, LP AskeyExtra-base hits: 2B Craft (NP), Huff (NP), Esmond (NP); 3B Murphy (C); HR Wroble (C)