MOREHEAD CITY — The Big Rock Fall Baseball League’s Black team came and left Wednesday’s contest with Red as the only undefeated team left in the pool of five.
The squad defeated Red 4-0 after besting Marlin Blue 2-1 on Monday and rolling Royal Blue 14-4 in the season opener on Sept. 28.
“Anytime you’re 3-0 and you’re the only team without a loss, you’re going to have a target on your back,” Black team coach Jimmy Paylor said. “We want everyone’s best. It’s a developmental league. We need everyone to keep learning and facing challenges. It’s only going to make them better.”
The Red (1-2) team had two solid chances to score and even out-hit Black 6-4, but it never crossed the plate in the six-inning contest.
“I thought we played good defense and got some baserunners on, but we never got that big hit when we needed it,” said Red coach Dalton Knight said. “A lot of our guys have long swings right now, and we need to shorten up. Singles are still good.”
Black team starting pitcher Ethan McLaughlin only allowed two hits through three innings on the mound. The younger brother of 2017 West baseball alum Sean and sisters Parker and Payton, McLaughlin spent the first three years of high school in Tennessee before transferring back to the county over the summer.
“They paved the way, and I get to finish it off. It’s kind of cool,” he said.
The fall league gives McLaughlin a chance to re-familiarize himself with the other varsity players and play competitive ball after a six-month layoff due to COVID-19.
“I knew a lot of guys from my middle school, but I didn’t get the experience playing Croatan and East over the last three years, so this is cool,” McLaughlin said. “I like this league because it gives me a chance to make up for the junior season I lost. It’ll help ease me into the spring, too. I hadn’t pitched in a while, but I went out there and found my groove, did my thing. It turned out to be pretty good.”
McLaughlin struck out five and walked two, while relief pitcher C.W. Bear struck out six and walked two with four hits allowed over three innings.
“We had some good pitching tonight,” Paylor said. “Ethan threw strikes and stayed ahead of the hitters, and then C.W. came in and did a great job. We’ve got some hitters in the lineup, and we’re going to score some runs. It’s all about the pitching for us.”
The Black team got on the board in the third inning with a Liam McFadden run off a Lamar Teel single after walking to get on base. It extended the lead with three runs in the fourth. Ryan Bellamy reached on a single and scored on a double from Austin Odom who scored on a subsequent double from Owen Bellamy. The latter scored on a passed ball to give the Black team is final 4-0 lead.
Braylon Cushinberry led the Black team at the plate, hitting 2-for-2 with an RBI. Owen Bellamy hit 1-for-1.
The Red team had bases loaded in the fourth and six innings but couldn’t finish with runs. Jackson Sproul was the hot bat on the night, going 3-for-4 as the leadoff hitter. He was in scoring position in the sixth when Black got its third out on a fielder’s choice.
“Their energy was positive tonight,” Knight said. “In the last game, we came out flat, and the other team kind of walked all over us. Tonight, it was different. I thought they were focused, and there were two moments where a hit or two could have swung it in our direction.”
Sam Hoy started on the mound for Red, striking out two and allowing two hits and one earned run over three innings. Jaxon Ellingsworth pitched the last three frames, giving up two hits and one earned run and striking out five.
Black will face Royal Blue at 5:45 p.m. on Monday in a rematch from the season opener. Royal Blue has the league’s second-best record at 3-1.
Red will face Marlin Blue at 8 p.m. on Monday.
All games take place at Big Rock Stadium.
Here are results of the game:
BIG ROCK FALL BASEBALL
Team R H E
Black…….....001 300 x - 4 4 2
Red………....000 000 x - 0 6 2
WP – McLaughlin
LP – Hoy
Black leading hitters: Cushinberry 2-2, RBI; O. Bellamy 1-1 (2B), run; Odom 1-2 (2B), RBI, run.
Red leading hitters: Sproul 3-4; Hoy 1-3; Thomas 1-1; Saylor 1-1.