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Falcons tame North

BILL LANE • Mar 22, 2007 at 5:51 AM

CHURCH HILL - Pardon the Volunteer Falcons if they're busting buttons and walking with swagger today.

After an 0-4 start, they've knocked off two former state baseball champions.

Sullivan North became their second kill Wednesday night 6-2. Volunteer defeated Tennessee High 8-4 on Tuesday.

Sophomore Dylan Christian fired a two-hitter and his team capitalized on four North errors to score four runs in the decisive sixth inning.

"We needed confidence,'' first-year coach Travis Free said. "I think last night's win over Tennessee High started something. We've got a good thing going.

"To be honest, we didn't deserve to get those four runs in the sixth tonight, but we did. We put the ball in play and applied pressure to North's defense. We may have been riding momentum from our first win.''

Leadoff batter Greg Overbay got both of North's hits.

"This makes two games that we haven't hit the ball,'' North coach Steve Dixon said. "We hit some hard balls - but at somebody. (The Falcons) made plays when they had to and we didn't.''

The sixth frame was a calamity of errors. Snapping a 2-2 tie, Volunteer batted a complete round - compliments of North's defensive collapse.

Christian, Derek Shaffer and Aaron Bennett reached base on consecutive errors. After Tyler Hutson drew an RBI walk, Cody Byington's two-out fly - with the runners moving - was misplayed in left field to clear the bases.

"When a team gives you four chances to get an out and you fail, there's no excuse for it,'' Dixon said.

North was sailing along with a 2-1 lead before lifting starting pitcher Brandon Morelock. The Falcons weren't very kind to reliever Brandon Black, even though sloppy defense wasn't of his doing.

Dixon pulled Morelock because he had reached a designated 60-pitch limit. He suffered a shoulder injury last year and is being worked in gradually. "His pitch count will be increased by five with each outing,'' Dixon said. "Both of our pitchers threw great tonight.''

Team captain Matt Fleenor was relishing the Volunteer victory. Leadership of a youthful team has fallen on the senior shortstop's shoulders.

"This should bring our confidence level up,'' Fleenor said. "We've beaten two strong programs on back-to-back nights. It ought to give us the right mindset to play.''

North opened a 1-0 lead on Overbay's single, a sacrifice by Clay Culley and Matt Summey's RBI groundout. The Raiders made it 2-0 with a walk, another hit by Overbay, Culley's second sacrifice and Morelock's run-scoring grounder.

Volunteer picked up a run in the third as Hutson and Byington stroked consecutive doubles. The Falcons tied the score at 2-2 on Fleenor's double in the fifth following walks by Hutson and Byington.

In the next inning, North's defense caved in.

"Fleenor's big hit was the turning point,'' Free said. "We're relying on him a lot. I feel we have a chance to compete against the upper-level teams in the Big 9 Conference.''

In the win over Tennessee High, Fleenor went 4-for-4 - including a homer - to drive in two runs.

"Christian threw exactly 100 pitches and went the whole way tonight. Shaun Arnold pitched the distance against Tennessee High,'' Free said. "Christian is still young and riding his fastball while he develops a curve.''

The Falcons righthander walked just two and struck out six. "I'm trying to pick up speed,'' Christian said, "but right now my main focus is on accuracy.''

Volunteer (2-4) will host West Greene at 6 p.m. Friday. North (3-2) will travel to St. Paul for a 4:30 p.m. game the same day.

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