In Wednesday’s Coca-Cola Classic at Sullivan South, he smashed one that made all the difference.
Gray’s full-count grand slam to right-center in the third inning sent the Falcons well on their way to a 7-2 win over Sullivan North.
“He hit a solo home run last night and he follows it up tonight with, like, a 15-pitch at-bat. He’s in there, fouls off three or four curveballs and gets that fastball — and he doesn’t miss it,” marveled Volunteer coach Daris Green.
Jamie Manis (1-0) got his first win of the season after two previous no-decision appearances for the Falcons (2-6). He gave up five hits, striking out three and walking six.
“Our sophomore on the mound just gave us another good 100 pitches. He’s good for 100 every time out and we finally got him a ‘W’ for it,” the Volunteer coach said.
Christian Green’s leadoff triple in the first inning was a bad omen for North starter Zach Ball (0-2). Joe Green followed with a sacrifice fly to center for the 1-0 lead.
Christian Green batted 3-for-4. Joe Green and Manis each went 2-for-4. Josh Davis went 2-for-3 while Shane Barnette had a single, a sacrifice bunt and a stolen base for Volunteer, which added two more runs off two hits in the fifth inning to lead 7-1.
The star-crossed Golden Raiders got a run in the fourth when Will White scored on a wild pitch, but made two outs on the basepaths in the same inning. Brett Jennings’ RBI double scored another run for North in the fifth, after the Raiders ran into another out.
North loaded the bases in the seventh with no outs, but a double play and a game-ending pickoff got Volunteer out of the jam.
“It was stupidity on the basepaths. No mental focus. There’s no excuse for getting picked off — especially after they’ve already thrown there,” North coach Steve Dixon said. “That was the ballgame in a nutshell. We were stupid on the bases.”
The Golden Raiders (0-4) had runners picked off in the first and second innings of their nightcap with Sullivan South. But what truly hastened the Rebels’ 11-0 rout in five innings were a combined 13 walks issued by three North pitchers — the most Dixon has ever seen North surrender.
Add a couple of wild pitches and a hit batter and South (3-2) didn’t have to add a lot on its own. Tanner Smith went 2-for-3 with a double, while Reid Matthews added a double.
Heath Haden (1-0) collected the win in five, striking out four and walking three. He gave up one hit.
“We weren’t sure how far he could go,” South coach Anthony Richardson said. “We’re going to need him to go down the road. He’ll have to pitch some good innings for us in the conference.”