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Knights win in eight on Reese's single

North Davidson’s E.P. Reese hits the game-winning single in the bottom of the eighth inning in the Black Knights’ 2-1 win over Providence in the first round of the 4-A state playoffs on Friday in Welcome. (Photo by Mike Duprez/The Dispatch)

WELCOME | North Davidson’s baseball team kept staying alive by dodging bullets until the Black Knights’ E.P. Reese fired one of his own.

Reese singled with one out in the eighth to drive in Drew Beaver with the winning run as the Knights pulled out a dramatic 2-1 win over Providence in the first round of the 4-A state playoffs on Friday in Welcome.

North (17-8) won despite only collecting four hits and striking out 12 times. The Knights (17-8) will play at South Mecklenburg in the second round on Tuesday.

“Drew, Chase (Mitchell), our senior class, (Andrew) Mayton, Booger, also known as C.J. Rice, I can’t say enough about them,” said North coach Mike Meadows. “They kept us together. They didn’t panic. They stayed loose. It is what it is. That’s a very good team.”

And a team with a misleading 15-12 record that put a lot of pressure on the Knights.

“Very tough,” Reese said. “That made us go into extra innings, which is crazy.”

So was the ending.

Not only had the Knights got just four hits, they drew a mere one walk. But, oh, it was a big one.

When he came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth with one out, Beaver had had an awful night at the plate, striking out all three times against Providence starter Jimmy Doolittle. But the senior shortstop coaxed a walk out of reliever Tommy Dejuneas on a 3-2 pitch.

“I was just looking to be patient at the plate,” Beaver said. “I was swinging at a lot of things that weren’t strikes. I took the approach that I was going to take until I got a strike. Becoming a baserunner was the main thing in that situation.”

Reese was up next and his at-bat became ever the more important thanks to Beaver’s actions on the base paths. Beaver first stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch.

And Reese, the only Knight who didn’t strike out, cashed in, ripping a 3-2 pitch up the middle for a base hit to win the game.

“When the pitcher pitched out and Drew got to third, I knew had to make contact,” Reese said. “Try to hit the ball up the middle or on the sides, anything hard to get it past them.”

Reese’s hit triggered a wild celebration after a win not unlike others the Knights have amassed over the years.

“I mean we weren’t sharp on the mound,” Meadows said. “We weren’t that sharp at the plate. We had a week off. We hit a lot but it wasn’t against live arms. I give a lot of credit to their No. 1. He had a great slider. He had a great split-finger and he got a bunch of swinging strikes.”

About all the Knights could manage off Doolittle was catcher Eric Morrow’s solo home run in the bottom of the second that gave the Knights a 1-0 lead. Doolittle struck out nine in 5 2/3 innings and gave up three hits.

Then the Knights had to go into survival mode and play a lot of defense as pitchers Josh Roberson and Andrew Mayton combined for only three strikeouts — two of them in the first inning.

The visiting Panthers did provide some help.

Andrew Moritz blasted a one-out triple in the top of the third. But then Austin Proehl, the son of former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Ricky Proehl, failed to get down a bunt on a suicide squeeze. Morrow easily ran down Moritz and tagged him out.

Providence (15-13) caught up when Roberson walked Dejuneas with the bases loaded. Shawn McConoughey then smacked a hard grounder deep in the hole at short, which Beaver came up with and made a strong throw to first, ending the inning.

Jake Holtzapple singled with one out in the fifth and after an errant pickoff throw, Meadows summoned Mayton from the bullpen. Holtzapple took third on a wild pitch and Mayton, who had inherited a 1-0 count, walked Patrick Ryan, who promptly stole second. Mayton got out of it by retiring Jack King on a shallow fly to right fielder Chris Cheek and Andrew Fishel on a grounder to Mitchell at first.

The Knights faced even more peril in the seventh.

Moritz singled with one out and moved to second on Proehl’s sacrifice. But when a pitch skipped off Morrow’s glove and rolled just a few feet away, Moritz tried to go to third. Morrow gunned him down with third baseman Preston Blake making the swipe tag. The hugeness of that play was evident when Dejuneas doubled off the left field fence, a hit that would have given Providence the lead. McConoughey was hit by a pitch but Mayton got Black on a shallow fly to end the inning.

Notes: Holtzapple and Moritz were both 2-for-3 … Providence stole four bases in four tries … The Panthers left 10 runners on base … Reese was 2-for-4 … Roberson allowed four hits and one run while striking three and walking three in 5 1/3 innings … Mayton pitched 2 2/3 shutout innings while allowing three hits and walking a batter with no strikeouts.

Mike Duprez can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 218 or