The Harrells Christian Academy Varsity Baseball team kicked off the 2015 season on Tuesday, March 10 against Freedom Christian. Despite early struggles, the Crusaders went on to easily win the game by a score of 10-1. HCA hit the field with all new uniforms, looking ready to finally play some baseball. Senior Ben Prestage started the on the mound, but struggled to find the strike zone early in the game. Freedom scored their only run on an E5, which brought home a runner that had drawn a walk earlier in the inning. Despite his early struggles, Prestage bounced back to pitch three solid innings, gave up no runs, walked two batters, and struck out two. The Crusader bats were rusty the first three innings. Sophomore second baseman Luke Quinn singled in the bottom of the first, but was tagged out at second on a fielder’s choice. Senior left fielder Justin Smith reached on the fielder’s choice, but was left stranded on base. Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the second, HCA hit into two quick outs, but junior right fielder Davis Jones drew a walk. Jones then stole second to get into scoring position, but junior third basemen Jake Register flew out to end the inning. Senior center fielder Spencer Cooke hit a single with one out in the bottom of the third, and then stole second on the very next pitch. Quinn grounded out, moving Cook to third base with senior shortstop Mike Smith coming to bat. Cooke scored and tied the game at 1-1 after a passed ball. Smith then drew a walk, and advanced to second on an unusual balk by the Freedom pitcher. Senior catcher Joseph Phanuef then drove in Smith with a base hit.
HCA headed into the top of the fourth inning with a 2-1 lead. Nathan Casteen came in to pitch for Prestage. Coach Winifred Johnson moved Register to first to fill Casteen’s position, and senior Evan Hardison entered the game at third base. Casteen quickly retired the Freedom batters, but the Crusaders went three up and three down in the bottom of the fourth. The junior southpaw struck out two batters in the top half of the fifth, and then came up clutch in the bottom of the inning. After Cooke drew a walk, he was tagged out at second, but Quinn reached first safely. Quinn then stole second with Smith up to bat. Smith doubled, but Quinn was held at third to not risk being thrown out at the plate. Phaneuf came up to bat and was hit by a pitch, loading the bases for HCA. Casteen then came to the plate and hit a double past the shortstop, driving in Quinn and Smith. Hardison followed up Casteen’s double with one of his own, which drove sophomore Chance Bryant (running for Casteen) and senior Tristan Crumpler (running for Phaneuf) in to score. Jones then drew a walk, moving Hardison to third base. The senior later scored on a passed ball. Freedom finally recorded the final out, trailing the Crusaders by a score of 7-1.
Casteen once again shut down the Patriots in the top of the sixth. The junior pitched three innings, struck out five batters, gave up no hits, and only walked one batter. With one out in the bottom of the sixth, Cooke once again drew a walk. Andrew Miller, hitting for Luke Quinn, then hit a double to deep center, sending Cooke across the plate. Smith came up to bat and drew a walk. Junior Ethan Hall then came in to pinch run for Smith. Phaneuf drew a walk as well, and Crumpler came in to pinch run for him. With the bases loaded and two outs, Hardison came to the plate. He proceeded to hit a single, driving in Miller and Hall. With the score 10-1, Phaneuf came in to pitch in relief on Casteen in the seventh inning. Phaneuf struck out one batter, and the Crusaders finished off the Patriots to win the season opener.
After falling short in the finals last season, HCA is determined to return to the NCISAA 2A state championship and come home with the trophy this time. Even though they’re only one game into the season, the Crusaders have shown that they’re not a team you would take lightly. For now, only time will tell if HCA will capture the ring this year, but you expect to see them playing well into the month of May. The Varsity Baseball team returns to action on March 12 vs. Faith Christian. The game is scheduled for a 5:30 first pitch in Rocky Mount. HCA then plays again in Rocky Mount on Saturday against Westchester Country Day at 6:00. Saturday’s game may be subject to change due to the possibility of inclement weather. To stay updated, please follow us on Twitter (@hca_athletics) and check out our brand new website, www.hcaathletics.com. For live play-by-play coverage of every game, follow @hca_baseball, the official Twitter of HCA Varsity Baseball.
STATISTICS (HCA vs. Freedom Christian) -
S. Cooke: 1-2, 2 BB, 2 runs, 2 SB
L. Quinn: 1-3, SB
M. Smith: 1-2, 2 BB
J. Phaneuf: 1-2, 2 BB, 2 runs
N. Casteen: 1-4, 2 RBI
B. Prestage: 0-1
D. Jones: 1-2, 2 BB, 1 RBI, SB
J. Register: 0-3
J. Smith: 0-2
E. Hardison: 2-3, 3 RBI, 1 run
A. Miller: 1-1, 1 RBI, 1 run
E. Hall: 0-1
C. Bryant: 1 run
HCA BATTING TOTALS: 26 AB, 10 runs, 9 hits, 8 RBI, 6 BB, 3 SO
HCA PITCHING TOTALS:
Win - B. Prestage (1-0) 3 IP, 1 hit, 0 runs, 2 BB, 2 SO (77 pitches)
N. Casteen (0-0) 3 IP, 0 hits, 0 runs, 1 BB, 2 SO (66 pitches)
J. Phaneuf (0-0) 1 IP, 0 hits, 0 runs, 0 BB, 1 SO (21 pitches)