Knights slay Tigers

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 21, 2002

The Virginia Knights of the 15-and-under AAU league warmed up for their trip to national competition by taking a doubleheader from the Oscar Smith junior varsity team at Lakeland High School on Saturday afternoon. After Jason Rock and Jeff Cooper shut down the Tiger offense for a 2-1 victory in the opener, the Knight offense showed its offensive power in the second, scoring in four out of five innings to run away with a 13-3 slaughter-rule victory. The team will head to Kingsport, Tenn. on July 26 to do battle with 59 of America’s other top teams

In the first game, the Tigers got on the board in the second inning. Mike Anderson reached on an error, moved to third on a single by Jeff Leckrone, and scored on Alex Vegler’s single down the left-field line. But the Knights got the run back in the second when Justin Harrah singled home John Phelps.

Rock – who received clearance to pitch only Tuesday after carpal-tunnel syndrome – limited his playing time, allowed only two more hits, both in the third inning. But after that, he and Cooper kept the Tigers from putting a man on base for the rest of the game.

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&uot;My arm’s still a little weak, but it’s getting stronger,&uot; said Rock, a starter on the Nansemond-Suffolk Aca-demy varsity baseball team. &uot;I’ve been trying to take it slow, but I was pretty accurate, and I think my speed’s starting to come back.&uot;

The Knights got the deciding run in the fourth inning. With two outs, Justin Wright was hit in the elbow by a pitch. He shook off the pain to steal second, and Phelps smashed a single to left field to score him.

However, neither team got a hit for the remainder of the game, which concerned catcher Scott Crave. &uot;That wasn’t our best game,&uot; he said. &uot;This second one, you’re going to see us play better.&uot;

He was right; the Knights’ bats came alive, as they scored three runs in the first inning and five in the second before Oscar Smith knew what had hit it.

Mike Pilkerton started things off with a single in the first, and stole second. Phelps doubled him in, and was himself scored on a single by Rock. After a passed ball allowed Rock to make it to second, Craven beat out a grounder to short, scoring him.

After the Knight defense held the Tigers, Eddie Prince bashed a triple down the left field line to open the second. An infield single by Mike Zoskey scored Prince.

Freddy Foshay was hit by a pitch, and the runners advanced on a passed ball. Channing Dolan trickled a single down the right field line, scoring Zoskey and Foshay.

Cooper doubled to right field, scoring Dolan to make the scored 7-0. Phelps then doubled Cooper home, completing a five-run inning.

On the mound, Wright sent the Tigers down in order in the second, and Wes Conroy doubled in Daniel Swale to stretch the lead to 9-0.

Oscar Smith finally scored a run in the third, but the Knights exploded again in the fourth. Zoskey singled to centerfield, and Dolan and Pilkerton walked to load the bases. Cooper scored Zoskey with a single to centerfield, and the Tigers brought Jeff Benton in to relieve And-erson.

The Knights gave Benton a rude welcome, as Wright scored Dolan with a sacrifice grounder. Phelps then hammered a triple into centerfield to score Pilkerton and Prince (pinch-running for Cooper) for the team’s final runs.

Craven was much happier with his team’s performance the second time around. &uot;We were hitting the ball a lot better.&uot;

The Knights have two more &uot;warmup&uot; games today, as they’ll play the West End Warriors (Richmond) and the Tidewater Cardinals today at noon and 2 p.m. at Lakeland.