FUQUAY-VARINA – The Fuquay-Varina baseball team didn’t get off to a good start in its final regular-season home game last week.
Apex took a 2-0 lead in top of the first inning and threatened to spoil Senior Night on May 1.
The Bengals quickly recovered, however.
Fuquay (14-1 conference, 19-3 overall) responded with four runs in the bottom of the first, added six more in the second and went on to defeat the Cougars 15-2 in a Tri-Nine 4A Conference game called due to the 10-run mercy rule.
“We had a lousy start,” said FV coach Milton Senter. “It was a very inauspicious first inning, but then we settled in and played really well. We hit the ball well and our pitching was off-the-chart good, which it has been all year long.”
Apex (9-11 overall, 6-9 conference), which still has a shot at the No. 5 seed from the Tri-Nine for the state playoffs, couldn’t have planned its start any better.
Esteban Valencia struck out but reached base on a passed ball and then advanced to third when Alex Yarem reached on a throwing error. Valencia scored on a passed ball and Liam Serencsics’ single plated Yarem for a 2-0 lead.
Fortunately for the Bengals, they swung the bats well and took advantage of five walks with some clutch hitting to erase the deficit.
“Fuquay is a solid hitting team,” said Apex coach Mike Valder said. “I thought they hit some really good pitches and we didn’t execute defensively behind our pitchers.”
Back-to-back walks to Garrett Suggs and Lucas Scott set the stage for D.J. Burt’s two-run double to right centerfield, tying the game. Burt then advanced to third and scored on Brett Daniels’ groundout to first base. Nick Stuart walked, stole second, advanced to third on a throwing error and scored on a single by Perry Gray to give the home team a 4-2 lead.
Fuquay then added to its advantage with a six-run second inning – all of which came after two outs.
Burt doubled home Suggs, who reached on an error and then stole third. Burt scored on a hit by Daniels. Stuart followed with an infield hit and Brian Mitchell singled to bring in Jordan Harris (Daniels’ courtesy runner). Burt scored on a wild pitch, Gray walked and Joe Williams doubled home the last two runs of the frame, making it 10-2.
“We should have been out of the second inning,” Valder said. “We certainly like the way we started. I thought we had some good at-bats throughout the night, but we gave them too many opportunities. You can’t do that – give a team like Fuquay second-, third- and fourth-chance opportunities.”
Apex put its first two batters on base in the top of the third (Valencia doubled and Yarem singled), but a fielder’s choice and a 1-6-3 double play ended the threat.
The Bengals tacked on their final five runs in the bottom of the fourth. Suggs’ grand slam home run accounted for four of the runs, while Sawyer Kelly smacked an RBI single to bring in Stuart (who’d reached on an error) for the other run. Jordan Bissette had an infield hit in the frame and James Tudor added a single.
“We haven’t hit a lot of home runs this year, but we do have four or five guys hovering around .400,” Senter said.
The Cougars threatened to extend the game when Cooper Grissom doubled and Austin Campbell walked with two outs in the top of the fifth. But Bissette, who relieved starter Daniels on the mound in the fourth, got Preston Long to line out to centerfielder Suggs, who made a diving catch to end the game.
Seniors playing their final regular-season home games for the Bengals were Stuart, Gray, Mitchell, Tudor, Scott, Suggs and Williams.