Greyhounds honor soccer seniors | Mt. Airy News


MORAVIAN FALLS — East Surry edged North Surry on Thursday to win the Foothills 2A Conference Tournament Championship.

The game was hard fought until the No. 1 seeders almost doubled their hits and runs in an explosive sixth inning. The no. 3 Greyhounds fought on and scored again at the top of the seventh and even had two players on base when the final strikeout was thrown.

A 9-4 win over their county opponents gave East Surry their 14th conference tournament championship in program history.

“We have great respect for the North Surry and Coach baseball program [Daryll] Johnson always prepares them well,” said East Surry manager Chad Freeman. “They won 10 out of 11 going into the championship so we knew they were a rowdy bunch. We made some mistakes but scored key goals at some key times.

“A lot of people have stood up for us, so hopefully that will give us some momentum as we prepare for the state playoffs.”

East and North Surry are two programs that are very familiar with championship play in conference tournaments. East won the Northwest 1A Conference Tournament Championship in 2013-15, 2017, and 2018, and finished runner-up in the 2019 tournament. North won the Western Piedmont 2A Conference Tournament Championship in 2019 and finished runners-up in 2017 and 2018.

There were no conference tournaments in 2020 and 2021.

“I’m incredibly proud of the guys for fighting to get here and putting us in a position to fight for a championship,” Johnson said. “The box scores were almost identical but East Surry could get theirs when they needed them and they made some big plays. They have a culture that they live by and they’ve been very successful. We also have a culture and we want to be successful every time we go out there. Success is measured in many different ways, and I don’t always judge by what the scoreboard says.

“We are not finished yet. We’re preparing for wherever we have to go if we’re blessed with a place in the playoffs.”

The road to the FH2A championship

North felt things were not over with East Surry, the front runners, after the last meeting between the teams. The Cardinals won 2-1 despite not getting past second base after the third inning. The Greyhounds loaded bases three times after scoring their only run, but failed to convert a run.

“Honestly, I thought they outplayed us in that game,” Freeman said. “We weren’t as sharp as we should have been, we were just lucky enough to make the plays it took to get the win. Overall they were better prepared for game two even though we won the game.”

Knowing his team had shown they could compete with East, the top-ranked team at the FH2A conference, was added motivation for Johnson and the Greyhounds.

“It felt bad coming out of that game and we took that game and we grew from it,” Johnson said. “If the ball had bounced our way a couple of times, maybe things would have turned out differently. That game, like the one against Forbush and the game at West Wilkes, was a wake-up call for us.”

North Surry’s 17-11 loss at West Wilkes on April 4 was a turning point for the team. The Greyhounds, who fell to a 6-7 aggregate after the loss, had nine errors against the Blackhawks, who were high for the season.

“We had a team meeting and discussed some things that will remain between us as a team,” Johnson said. “They agreed that this is unacceptable. We weren’t strong mentally at the start of the season and while we’re not quite where we want to be, we’ve come a long way since then.”

The Greyhounds won 10 of their next 11 games, including a 3–0 win over 2nd-seeded Forbush, and advanced to the conference championship game. Forbush defeated North Surry 8-2 and 9-1 in their two regular season meetings.

“It’s been a long season, but it’s been a good season,” Johnson said. “I’ve watched other teams and seen how they react to adversity, then take a look at mine. I wouldn’t trade my boys for anything…there’s a lot of respect in this dugout for the folks in our circle. That got us to where we are.”

East Surry, meanwhile, have had to pick up victories in several close games to keep their unbeaten conference campaign alive. These included two close games against Forbush, the aforementioned win against North Surry, a win at West Wilkes and a win at Surry Central to close out the regular season.

The #1 Cardinals defeated #4 West Wilkes 10-1 to earn the conference tournament championship.

“We made it clear in training that we shouldn’t take North Surry lightly and the boys knew that,” said Freeman. “We talked about it and nobody on our team was part of a conference tournament championship team. It’s special and North is playing for the same price.”

“Another wildcard is that we never faced Cam Taylor in the regular season either. He played great for them in the second half of the conference season and we really weren’t sure what to expect.”

Trade in haymakers

Freeman compared the tournament championship to a heavyweight boxing match.

“It was like two good boxers going back and forth with each other,” Freeman said. “One side would rout with a couple of good punches, then the other would hit back and gain momentum. It was a great game and that’s what you expect from a championship.”

North Surry (16-9) was first on the board with a run in the top of the first inning. Leadoff Ethan Edwards took first place with a Cardinal fielding error and moved up to second and then third with two wild pitches. James McCreary scored Edwards with a blooper over the third baseman’s head.

The Cardinals (21-1) mirrored the Hounds, putting on their leadoff first after a field error. Trey Armstrong was hit by a pitch and then Folger Boaz was tricked into loading bases with no outs. After scoring a strikeout, North Surry pitcher Cam Taylor went to Anthony Ayers to get Luke Bowman over the plate to tie the game.

North faced another set of loaded bases after the walk but turned in a double play to end the inning. Caden Lasley hit Edwards and a grounder first, and Edwards shot a pitch at Brodie Robertson’s home to force out. Robertson quickly threw back to Edwards first for the third of the inning.

East Surry added three runs late in the second to take the first lead of the evening. Matthew Keener and Bowman each played individually, and Tristen Mason was led to load bases, much like the first inning. Armstrong, who was named FH2A Tournament Outstanding Player, beat Keener and Mason to a 2RBI single.

“Trey has been phenomenal throughout the tournament; He was really freaking out,” Freeman said. “He played great on the field and had this spectacular jump save. During the entire tournament he only dropped the plate once.”

A sacrificial fly hit by Boaz put Bowman in play to make it a 4-1 game.

North Surry returned fire in the top of the third when Edwards and Kolby Watson hit singles. A cardinal error on Watson’s strike allowed the runners to move up to second and third, then Robertson joined his teammates after being hit by a Luke Brown pitch.

Myles Draughn scored Edwards with a single to make it 4-2. The Cardinals got Watson out as he tried to go home, but a ground-out hit from McCreary allowed Trevor Isaacs – running for Robertson – to score and make it 4-3.

The Cardinals added an insurance run at the end of the fourth inning when Boaz showed up to score Bowman. North Surry had chances to retaliate in games five and six, but left two runners on base each time.

The Hounds were unlucky with runners in the corners in the sixth inning. Ready to bat, Edwards faced a 2-2 count. Edwards attempted to dodge a pitch thrown his way, but his bat accidentally touched the ball. Taylor never had a chance to run home on the wild pitch as it was ruled a foul ball, and it left the count at 2-2 stay instead of going to 3-2. Brown beat Edwards on the next pitch.

East Surry went to the front of the lineup in the final sixth and broke out for back-to-back doubles, bringing a runner to base with a deliberate step and then rattling two more doubles to extend their lead to 9-3. North Surry led the scoring 7-6 before the end of the sixth.

“We just made good starts, and when we had pitches to hit, we took them,” Freeman said. “We also had a strong base run throughout the game.”

The Greyhounds kept fighting, adding a run at the top of the seventh. The Cards committed two field errors that opened the door to Watson’s goal, but North again left two runners on base.

“I’m proud of them and I certainly told them that,” Johnson said. “It’s been hard getting to where we are now and it definitely hasn’t been easy. But we don’t want it to be easy. That’s how you get better.

“Hopefully we can get a good draw in the playoffs. We played some bad games and had some bad performances so we put ourselves here and now we have to do something about it.

Taylor spent 5.1 innings on the mound for North Surry. He threw two strikeouts, hit batters, walked three and allowed eight carries on eight hits. McCreary pitched the final .2 innings and allowed a two-hit run.

Brown clinched the win on the mound for East by throwing six strikeouts, two walks and three runs on seven hits in 6.0 innings. Anthony Ayers pitched the last inning and had a strikeout, a walk and a run allowed.

Points

North Surry – 1, 0, 2, 0, 0, 0, 1 = 4

East Surry – 1, 3, 0, 1, 0, 4, X=9

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