RALEIGH — When North Raleigh Christian gave up a 2-0 lead in the seventh inning against visiting Wake Christian Monday, the Knights coaches told players to “find a way.”
Trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the inning, Drake Harris and Richard Landis each doubled for the Knights, bringing Trevor Edge up to bat with one out and runners on second and third.
Edge knocked one out of the park and just inside the right field foul post for a three-run homerun to tie the game and force extra innings.
Edge would score the winning run two innings later when Wake reliever Kyle Patterson fielded a Russ Smith bunt, but overthrew first base to allow the NRCA score.
“They came up with that (‘find a way’ motto) in here on their own,” North Raleigh Christian coach Bill Cook said of his players. “We’ve been talking all year long about competing and about fighting, never giving up. It was ‘find a way on base, find a way on base, find a way to get it done,’ and that’s what we did today. We found a way.”
Smith’s RBI single put the Knights on the board in the fourth inning, and Lachlan McKinion doubled in the sixth to bring Smith home for a two-run lead before the Bulldogs took advantage of North Raleigh’s struggles on the mound in the seventh inning.
After being held scoreless through six innings by Edge and Harris, NRCA’s starter and reliever, respectively, Wake Christian completed 11 at-bats in the seventh, with the first three batters reaching base. Andrew Alexander’s walk brought in the first of five Bulldogs runs in the inning before two flyouts to center field stopped the damage.
Wake Christian coach Randy Johnson knew the matchup with North Raleigh Christian would be a battle.
“Those guys won the conference last year and we were second. We’ve got everybody back but one, so I expected it to be a good game and it turned out to be a nine-inning game,” Johnson said.
Knights closer Maleek Perpall, who had given up the five seventh-inning runs, retired three straight batters in the eighth before Smith came in to finish the game on the mound in the ninth.
“Maleek’s been our closer for two years and that was probably the worst inning I’ve seen him throw,” Cook said. “I wanted to give him another chance to go back out. I didn’t want him to come out of this game today with a five-run seventh inning being the last thing he remembered.
“We had tied it back up. I knew we’d get one more set of at bats, and I really wanted him to go back out there and figure out what didn’t work the inning before, and it worked out. He did pull it off. He did do exactly what I thought he would. He’s a competitor and that’s why he has that position.”
The Knights’ offensive output was significantly slowed Monday for a team that had scored 79 runs in its first six games.
“Beau Barger threw a fantastic ball game for Wake. ... He definitely threw well enough to win today,” Cook said. “That held us in check until that last inning. I know he’d thrown a lot of pitches. He was tired. He really threw one bad pitch and Trevor made him pay for it, and the bats came alive, so it worked out for us.”
Monday’s game kicked off Triangle Independent Schools Athletic Association play for both teams, and a three-game series with the Bulldogs.
Wake Christian would win the second installment of the series Thursday, 10-3.
“This year I think everybody’s gotten better and it’s going to be a fight,” Cook said. “It’s a 12-game conference season this year, which is different than last year, and we’ve got to come ready to play every day.”