Prince George Earns Road Win Over Hopewell
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Apr 5, 2014, 09:57
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL — After defeating Petersburg and facing a tough week ahead with games against Thomas Dale and Dinwiddie, one wouldn't blame Prince George for overlooking a tough Hopewell team. Yet, the Royals never looked ahead and instead focused at the task at hand which was to strike early against the Blue Devils.
The carnage began with Prince George's first batter of the night as Jordan Nase hit a blistering grounder toward Neeyamyah Nunez at first base as he misplayed it to allow him to reach base. Preston Stringer then worked a walk leaving shortstop Mark King an opportunity to cash in.
King — who finished the night 2-for-4 from the dish — worked the count to 2-0 before unleashing on a Trent Scott pitch and sending it into right field for a single and two RBIs. But Prince George would not be finished in the first inning. Connor Daly reached base after being hit by a 1-2 pitch and Travis Wyatt reached on a perfectly placed bunt single to pass the baton to Jackson Rivera.
The Royals' starting pitcher didn't waste a 2-0 offering as he pulled it down the third base line to drive in two more runs before completing a shut-down inning against Hopewell from the mound. The fast start shook the confidence of a Blue Devils' team which had lost 14-0 to Thomas Dale one night earlier and allowed the Royals to cruise to their own 14-0 victory for their second consecutive shutout.
"I thought we did a real good job at the plate and I told coach (Bobby) Pershing that our main goal was to get Trent Scott's pitch-count up," manager Mickey Roberts said after the game. "It was 84 after three innings, so the guys did a good job with that but they also did a good job hitting behind runners and knowing where to hit the ball."
And while the offensive outburst at the plate played a big role in the Royals (3-2) win, it was more about the workman-like at bat put on by Nase in the second inning. Following Matt Burgess' three-pitch strikeout against Scott, one of Hopewell's (2-3) top arms, Nase knew he needed to work the count but immediately fell into an 0-2 hole.
Yet, Nase was unfazed by the predicament as he shortened his stroke and focused on wasting good pitches by Scott. The Hopewell right hander changed eye levels, moved the ball inside and outside and even took some speed off on occasion, but Nase kept fouling them off.
Then, on the 16th pitch of the at-bat, Nase flied out to the left fielder but the damage was already done. Scott was close to end of his line after Nase's at-bat which put the Royals in the driver's seat.
However, Roberts was not surprised by Nase's at-bat. It's the type of execution he has come to expect out of the junior second baseman who impacts the game with his fielding, hitting and speed on the base paths.
"He's a heady ballplayer and he plays hard," Roberts said of Nase. "He makes good reads on the base paths. It's not that he's fast, but he makes good reads and gets good jumps. He has what we call, 'baseball speed.' It's good having a guy like that on the base paths because they get worried about him."
But one part of the game Roberts never had to worry about was the pitching side.
Rivera threw three innings and showed an ability to change eye levels which led to weak contact being made by Hopewell. The deception he brought to the hill with his delivery in the way he hides the ball until the last minute helped limit the Blue Devils to just two hits while he picked up three strikeouts.
Yet, he wasn't even the most impressive pitcher the Royals sent to the hill. That honor belonged to Joey Runion who entered the game in the fourth inning.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
The senior right hander attacked the zone from the outset, never reaching as much as two-ball count before retiring all six batters he faced. It's the type of effort Roberts said he will need out of the senior if the Royals want to have a successful season.
"Out of the two, I thought Joey did the better job," Roberts said. "Joey just came in and went right at them. Joey pitched to contact and we are going to need that type of performance this year. He's done well so far. Jackson has also done well, but I was really impressed with what Joey did."
But Roberts should have also been impressed with the way his team continued to play hard in all aspects of the game. In today's game of not hustling out of the box, the Royals hitters did just that and it helped force six Hopewell errors by putting the pressure on them to make a perfect play.
And he also senses a bout of confidence going through the team after racking up two wins by a combined 24-0 score. That confidence will be put to the test in a challenging week ahead.
"It's got to help us, but each time we go out, we have to be a little bit better than the time before," Roberts said. "If we keep playing and keep learning ... we could have a good season."
Judging by the way they immediately listened to their coaches for adjustments during the games by advancing runners and working the count, the Royals are trending in the right direction in the early part of the season.