Boyd, Griffins Topple Richard Winn

RWA’s Patrick Pope (4) backs up the play and Cameron Cooper is late with the tag on Fairfield Central’s Tavaris Cook. (Photo/Joe Seibles)

WINNSBORO – A Herculean solo smash by Richard Winn Academy catcher Austin Knox straightaway over the center field fence and a two-out bases loaded walk plating Elijah Tucker put Fairfield Central’s starting hurler Chris Boyd and the Griffins in an early 2-0 hole in Tuesday night’s crosstown showdown. But after tossing 30 pitches and issuing three free passes in the first inning, Boyd and the Griffins battled back, taking down the Eagles at RWA 13-7 in a nearly three-hour grind.

“(Boyd) walked three and gave up a home run,” Griffins’ head coach Scotty Dean said after all the dust had settled, “but the next inning was 13 (pitches), the next inning was 26. He fought (back). We played solid defense behind him at times.”

Boyd threw 103 total pitches over four-plus innings of work, giving up five runs on just three hits. Boyd struck out four Eagles while walking seven in the win. Walks and errors put the Eagles in scoring position in every inning, but timely defense stranded nine Eagles on the night. Boyd’s performance, while a bit of a roller coaster ride, showed Dean a lot of promise for the burgeoning season.

“We feel like we’ve got two pretty good pitchers (in Compton Walker and Stanley “Monk” McManus),” Dean said. “We need a third one who can come in and get outs. We’d like for that guy to be Chris Boyd. He throws the ball hard enough. He’s got three pitches he can throw for a strike. He just needs to do it consistently.”

Boyd’s 103-pitch effort came to an end with a 9-2 lead in the fifth. Richard Winn’s Cameron Cooper led off the inning with a single, then went to second on an error. Matt Taylor reached on a fielder’s choice, and Conrad Sharpe drew a free pass to load the bases. With no outs, Boyd was lifted for reliever Vincent Beaver. Although Beaver fanned the first batter he faced, Cooper came home on a wild pitch. McManus, working behind the plate Tuesday, dispatched Taylor, picking him off in a rundown at third when Taylor tried to score on a Beaver pitch in the dirt. Sharpe cut the Griffins’ lead to 9-5 when he made it home safely on back-to-back balks before Beaver settled down and struck out Blake Pauley to end the Eagle rally.

Beaver finished up the game for the Griffins, facing 13 batters over three innings. Beaver was charged with two runs on three hits and a walk, while striking out four with a mesmerizing curve and a fastball with subtle movement.

“What about Beaver,” Dean smiled after the game. “That breaking ball is nasty. Somewhere along the line, when he learned how to throw a baseball, he turns his hand, so his fastball breaks. So when he actually does (throw a breaking ball), it’s nasty.”

Southpaw Eagle reliever Blake Pauley sat the Griffins down in order in the top of the sixth, leaving the door cracked open just enough to encourage another Eagle rally. Pope and Knox led off the bottom of the frame with back-to-back singles, setting the plate for Tucker who drove home Pope and cut the Griffin lead to 9-6. Jason Branham scratched out a single, moving Mason Gibbons (pinch-running for Knox) to third. But Beaver recovered once again, striking out Cooper and getting Taylor to pop out to second to end the inning.

“Beaver is a real good baseball player,” Dean said. “He could start for a lot of people. He just doesn’t know if he’s good enough, yet. He’s as good as it gets, I’m telling you.”

Fairfield Central officially slammed the door on the Eagles in the top of the final inning as Pauley and the Eagle defense crumbled. Four walks, a wild pitch and an error led to a pair of Griffin runs, ending the night for Pauley. With two outs, Branham came on to extinguish the blaze, only to give up a two-RBI double to Willie Foster. By the time Foster was caught rounding third for the final out, the Griffins had upped the ante to 13-6.

The Eagles managed a single run in the bottom half when Hampton Caughman scored from third on another Beaver balk. Pauley, who reached on an infield error, was left stranded at third when Beaver struck out Knox to end the game.

Pope, who got the start for the Eagles, handled the Griffins effectively in the first, striking out Tavaris Cook and forcing McManus and Jarvis Kennedy to pop out. In between, however, were a pair of hit batsmen that indicated control would be an issue all night, and not just for Pope. The Eagle staff, while striking out 11, plunked three Griffins and walked seven, while the RWA defense gave the Griffins extra outs with six errors.

A pair of infield errors and a hit batsman in the top of the second loaded the bags for Tavaris Cook. His single up the middle drove in Foster to put the Griffins on the board. Cook was followed by his doppelgänger, Javaris Cook, who drew an RBI walk to tie the game at 2.

Kennedy reached first on an outfield error to start the third, Foster took a free pass and Boyd, contributing to his own cause, hammered an RBI double to break the tie. Foster later scored on a wild pitch and Boyd was brought around on a two-out RBI single by Tavaris Cook, putting the Griffins up 5-2. Pope, meanwhile, would not make it out of the inning, pulled with two outs for Tucker.

“I think that ball Chris Boyd hit started us off,” Dean said. “People are going to throw us breaking balls. They’re going to throw curveballs to us first pitch. And when you look bad going after a curveball, they’re going to throw you another one. I think they kind of saw that (tonight). The first seven batters, started them off with breaking balls. I said ‘even if you hit that pitch and it’s away from you, you can’t do anything with it unless it’s hanging.’ Well, we stopped swinging at that pitch and started hitting the ball hard.”

Pope was hung with the loss, giving up five runs (four unearned) on three hits, two walks and three hit batsmen. Pope struck out six of the 19 batters he faced. Tucker worked two and a third, giving up four runs (one unearned) on five hits and a walk, while striking out three. Pauley went one and two-thirds, giving up four unearned runs on no hits and four walks while striking out a pair. Branham finished things up for the Eagles, giving up just two hits and no runs in two-thirds of an inning.

Knox delivered the offense for the Eagles, going 3-for-5 with two RBIs, including the first-inning homer. Leadoff man Tavaris Cook paved the way for the Griffins, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs, one stolen base and a run scored.

Tuesday’s match was the first official game of the season. Last week, however, the Eagles got the better of the Griffins, 3-1, at Fairfield Central. Knox earned the March 5 win for the Eagles, with McManus taking the loss for Fairfield. Cooper earned the save.

The Griffins were slated to travel to Newberry on March 13 and will open their region schedule Friday (March 14) at Columbia High School. On March 18, the Griffins will again be on the road at Eau Claire.

The Eagles, meanwhile, host Great Fall Friday, then travel to Spartanburg to face Oakbrook Prep in their region opener.

FC – 0-2-3-0-4-0-4 – 13-10-4

RW – 2-0-0-1-2-1-1 – 7-6-6

WP: Chris Boyd. LP: Patrick Pope.

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